Memorial Day

Small Town Memorial Day, East Boothbay, Maine, 2005

By Jean Webster

People gather this chilly morning on a bend in the road
Just below the hill where a white church sits.
Some face the memorial erected years ago
Some look out over the river where two shipyards still
Send ships and boats off into the world.
Others face the Mill Pond, but few here recall
Its working days.

Several generations are represented, from sweet toddlers to elders
Who remember too many wars, too many young people dead
Or permanently impaired in body or mind. Men in uniforms
From several wars march together, lift their feet in unison
Turn to face the memorial as an army would
United in their actions – perhaps in their thoughts as well.
A lone trumpeter plays Taps, the notes soaring over the pond
Followed by a reverent silence. The player rejoins the band
For the Star-Spangled Banner and the drums beat the cadence
For the marching men.

Young people on bikes stream in, park and join the crowd.
Children holding American flags watch with solemn faces
Listen for echoes of the guns over the water. Even their dogs are quiet.
The minister speaks of past wars, reminding us about the “War to End
All Wars,” an optimistic expression now part of our language.
But we know better.
The minister reminds us that each year
Fewer towns and cities gather their people to pay tribute.
As this small town has today.

Waving flags and marching feet end the Memorial Day observance.
The flag-waving children march in a group, their faces bright
Looking forward to the next event, the next moment in their lives.
May they carry with them the memory of this day
The minister’s prayerful words, the sweet toddlers,
The elders and the men in uniform, all united in a single cause.
For now.

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