Monday, May 31, 2010

My Thoughts on Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day in the U.S., a day when we acknowledge and express appreciation for the sacrifices made by members of the armed forces and their families.

Every generation seems to have at least one war associated with it. For my parents, it was World War II. For my generation, it was Vietnam. I was twelve years old in 1963 when President Lyndon Johnson expanded U.S. participation in the Vietnam war. I remember feeling proud that our soldiers were fighting to keep people free. It was during that time that I began to write a lot of poetry, much of it in support of our involvement.

In high school I continued to write poetry. I learned to play the guitar and composed songs. I don't remember at what point I began to shift from defending U.S. actions in Vietnam to questioning and later opposing our continued participation. So many horrible things were happening. It wasn't simple to me anymore -- probably because I wasn't a child anymore.

I would like to share a poem I wrote in high school when the suffering and heartbreak caused by the Vietnam war weighed heavily on my mind. The poem is about a dying soldier. It is dedicated to all those who have given their lives in war and to the loved ones left behind. For the freedoms we enjoy because of your sacrifice, we are grateful.

At Last

In silence suspended you lie there and stare
At reflections of candlelight, soft on her hair,
Then you start from your dream as smoke fills the air,
For you know you're leaving at dawn.

The noise and the shouts beat a drum in your brain.
You remember the feeling of fear and of pain,
And an image of jungles, more jungles, and rain,
And you know you're leaving at dawn.

Your thoughts slip away once again to her side,
Through your feverish eyes and the slow-rising tide.
She's too far away. How can you confide
That you know you're leaving at dawn?

How can you tell her goodbye one last time,
That you're sorry you're leaving, you hope she won't cry.
But you see the tears that would soon fill her eyes
If she knew you were leaving at dawn.

Your mind is still throbbing. You feel far away.
You want to tell her; you're trembling with pain.
She must find someone new. She can't sit and wait,
For you know you're leaving at dawn.

Thunder -- then stillness -- then coldness -- then heat.
She's waiting, she's waiting, but she should be free.
Your eyes close in peace. No more will they see.
And how can you tell her you're gone?

Scotti Cohn
(c. 1967)


  1. Thanks, Megan. I thought perhaps this might resonate with a few people, but I guess not!


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