Requiem for the Unknown Soldier
Reflections on the Veterans March to Arlington, April 19, 1971
Brother, what can we say?
What validates a death?
Our fathers had parades, death swallowed up in Victory.
We stand before you only with our grief.
How can we face you?
Knowing your life was wasted
for betrayal of a gentle people
for women and children piled deep in graves
for empires and commerce grounded in misery
for strangers ignorant of freedom, unmoved by justice.
We have come to protest what we all have shared.
We have come to cry out before the nation
the immorality that binds us all.
Can you forgive them, silent brother?
They lied and told you not to question.
They said the cause was great:
so you were brave
you gave everything
you didn't know it was for nothing.
In what lies your heroism?
You simply gave it all.
Not in the flag that shrouds your crypt
Nor in the cause which caused your death.
We mourned you other times
Your death transcends the pointlessness of your passing.
Let no one rob you of your honor in the crumbling of their lies.
Now we make this pilgrimage to the place you lie:
on the lonely hilltops, the empty valleys
in your death we all have died.
We join you, brother.
Secretaries in carpools give you the flowers of their smiles.
Young men in suits give you the sign of peace.
The bearded motorcyclist shares with you
The mother and wife give you
the clenched fist of the peoples' struggle.
The wounded brother in his wheelchair
the tears of sorrow and loss.
promises you will not go unremembered.
Where have all the flowers gone?
Where have all the young men gone?
When will they ever learn?
Requiescat in pace.
7 May 1971
©1997 Jackson H. Day. All Rights Reserved.
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