Last Memorial Day I was in Washington, D.C. and wrote this poem which recently won the Robert Clark Appreciation Award and has been published by Sol Magazine and That Thing We Do 2008:
Memorial Day in McPherson Park,
A soft breeze cools the cement beneath my feet
as geometric shadows of nearby buildings
grow long across worn patches of green grass.
Making their way slowly, one by one they come.
With walkers, wheel chairs, crutches they come,
come to find that certain bench,
to stake a claim on dream time.
Black plastic bags holding what’s left
of a life of hard times and bitter memories
lay near torn and ragged soles.
Darkness will bring nightmares of “Nam”,
dreams of beds and showers
as sirens wail down K Street.
Ducks and pigeons scurry with flapping wings
circling round the woman in green sweats.
Midst the clamor, her hand, a rusty brown,
reaches into a bag and throws the fowl some crumbs.
She who has so little shares what she can.
Oblivious, suited figures hurry through the park
conversations wrapped around their ears.
Passers-by become intruders in this strange land.
Do they bring anything to the table?
Can they hear their pain?
A dark figure stoops under his mighty load
ranting, raving at sights unseen
as he stumbles from bench to bench.
He looks at me and I become afraid.
He shouts a greeting and I nod.
I take a seat on a fading sun-lit bench
Here on Memorial Day near the Wall of honor
gather the forgotten ones
lost in the “land of the free and the home of the brave”.
How did it come to this?
Fearful and ashamed
I walk away toward my hotel
knowing that my meal tonight will fill my belly
but will it feed my soul?