Cenotaph

Cenotaph, the name for a tomb to honor those whose graves lie elsewhere
***

Just have the patience to hear me out,
and I will tell you what I’ve been about (1 )

demons of fear and disorder

All is repose and peace
Untrampled lies the sod  (2)

the terrible noise

Only the voice of song-birds thrills the air (3)

A man whose son died in the war walking in the street

like a woman with a dead embryo in her womb (4)

That limping, glorious line of men
Over a flower-strewn way (5)

I go down the 58,022 names

half-expecting to find

my own in letters like smoke (6)

The honored names of all our heroes dead (7)

It is the empty seat in the mess hall (8)

And always we shall walk with the young dead (9)

the friend who did not return from patrol (8)

Behind all this perhaps some great happiness is hiding (4)

No use to weep inside and to scream outside (4)


I do not understand…
They bring so many, many flowers to me (10)

Here are names and black stone

and your only reflection (11)

The low-voiced men, who speak
Of me quite fondly, call me The Unknown (10)

And on the tangled wires
The last wild rally staggers, crumbles, stops  (12)

 

But now they lie low

While over them the swallows skim

And all is hushed at Shiloh (13)

.

References:
1 Joseph Plumb Martin. A Narrative of Revolutionary War Soldier. Some Adventures, Dangers, and Sufferings.
2 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. “Decoration Day.”
3 Elizabeth Robbins Berry. “The Unknown Dead.”
4 Yahuda Amichi. “Memorial Day for the War Dead.”
5 Anonymous. “What Marches?”
6 Yusuf Komunyakaa. “Facing It.”
7 Amos Russell Wills. “Memorial Day.”
8 Robert Dana. “At the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D. C..” quotation from General David McKiernan.
9 Edith Wharton. “The Young Dead.”
10 E. O. Loughlin. “The Unknown.”
11 Brock Jones. Cenotaph.
12 Alan Seeger. “Ode in Memory of the American Volunteers Fallen for France.”
13 Herman Melville. “Shiloh: A Requiem.”

 

  


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