Sunday, May 29, 2011

Poem for Memorial Day

[Initially, I had a rather complex indention scheme for this poem, which does not work well in this particular electronic interface.  I learned a bit about indenting lines in html, still was not pleased with the rendering on the screen, and so made some adjustments and adapted.  In any case, it was a short lesson in recognizing when an ideal may be a bit precious when creativity meets practical reality.]
 
Memorial (for soldiers known and unknown)
 
I honor you, O soldier,
who has fought and died with impassioned conviction.
I honor your commitment to a purpose, to an unassailable belief,
whether that belief welled up from within your soul
or manifested through intense indoctrination;
I honor the hard and fast lines of your truth,
even as I vehemently disagree with them.

In honoring you, I do not endorse the military industrial complex,
that hydra god
which can never be memorialized in its undying profits.
I honor your humanity,
your finite strength and infinite fallibility,
I honor your humanity,
your reckless courage and poorly hidden fear,
I honor your humanity,
O soldier who has fought and died.

You fought and died
for that elusive ideal labeled Freedom.
You fought and died
for inalienable rights
which can neither be conferred nor revoked by any human endeavor,
you fought and died
that power should remain in the hands of those
with the loudest voices and the deepest pockets,
you fought and died
that people who are as safe as anyone can possibly be
might believe that they are more secure than anyone can possibly be;
you fought and died
that the unborn might have the right to choose oblivion
over childhoods of poverty and neglect;
you fought and died
that consenting adults
might follow their sexual proclivities with impunity;
you fought and died
that any who prefer to do so
may wish a person Happy Holidays without fear of reprisal;
you fought and died
that the wealthy might entice the desperate
to orgiastic acts of depravity,
filmed and broadcast for the working class on pay-per-view;
you fought and died
with a steadfast devotion to people who never cared to know you,
clutching your military rosary beads, the chain of command.

You fought and died,
and the time of accountability for your actions has ended.
You are exonerated, if such a need exists.
You have served well and fully,
and though deserving of rest, you shall instead be immortalized
in the spittle of screed-spewing politicians,
and on the forked tongues
of those power hungry paragons of talk-radio buffoonery,
who confuse hatred for patriotism
and rhetoric for wisdom.
They offer fruit from a tree of jingoism
cloaked in the black-and-white moral absolutism of religion,
fruit to cure the unashamed nakedness of those who believe
that they are free indeed.
You are the branch from which that fruit is so often plucked.
In becoming a shibboleth for national pride,
however warranted or undeserving,
you have become sterile,
automaton, holy, stylized,
inhuman.

I honor you in your frailty,
for in that human susceptibility we are united.

I honor you in your frailty, O grandfather,
who called himself a soldier of the cross.
You fought in no national war, but your battles were manifold.
You were the serenity of Christ,
You were the joy of Christ,
You sang mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy
in the voice of Christ.
In honoring you,
I do not endorse the conservative evangelical Christian institution,
for which hatred and bigotry are justified
toward infidels and nonbelievers,
which cries out for justice for others and grace for itself.
You were the mind of Buddha and the love of Buddha
and the passivity of Buddha,
You were the delight of Krishna and the passion of Krishna
and the wisdom of Krishna.

Buddha Krishna Christ,
whose lap I sat upon to read;
Buddha Krishna Christ,
who spoke love
when others spoke admonishment;
Buddha Krishna Christ,
who cut down trees with a chainsaw
for his wife to have a better view of the mountains;
Buddha Krishna Christ,
who was walked upon
by those whom he loved;
Buddha Krishna Christ,
who knew that people never listen
and who spoke anyway.

When you were old, you stretched out your hands
and someone else dressed you
and led you where you did not want to go.
Instead of security,
those whom you held dear placed stones about you
and cast you into a river whose surface you had never breached,
a river with many names,
the foremost among them Ignorance and Greed.
You were the sacrificial lamb for the sake of a few.
You did not rise again after three days,
yet your absolution was immutable love.

I honor you, O soldier,
who fought and died in another’s war,
your true dignity arising not from uniform or adornment,
but from human perseverance and conviction.
I honor you, O soldier,
who has fought and died.
We are not united by cause or belief,
but by something much deeper.

--Randolph Partain
May 29, 2011

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