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Remembrance Day, 11/11/11

ISSUE:  Summer 2012

Uniform and medals in place, he began to recite:
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers …
I let him continue, word for word to the end,
pausing only for proper punctuation.
Perfect, just as in his prep school days. Blue ribbon.
Forest of Compiègne, I said. Not Agincourt.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow …

He proceeded through the rest of Flanders Fields alone.
I asked, Can the dead be happy?,

knowing, as I always do, what he’ll say:
Not unless they see sunrise and sunset.
At eleven, the sun was almost as high as it would get.
They remembered my father
at the chapel, asked how he was doing.
And as he had the year before, he told them
about his days in flight training, the time
he flew over his prep school’s football field,
almost touching down, almost not making it
back up, goalposts nearly nicking a wing.

Back then, Henry V was firmly in his place,
Lieutenant Colonel McCrae too,
but not me, not even an inkling though he knew
his bride-to-be. Hey, Dad, do you remember
meeting Mum? I asked, and he joked:
When they heard I’d been given a commission,
they surrendered. And so did she, I thought.
When we came out after the service, we saw
that clouds had gathered on the day,
the sun strafing them in a few spots.

Over a spot of lunch, we talked about what he could
remember, pockets of recollection
in odd places and times, his unusual condition unkindly
rendering some of the unforgettable lost
while leaving much of the forgettable found.
He recalled the birthday gift for his brother
who guessed what it was after he’d asked and was told
only that it looked like a hammer.
I asked if he recalled hiking with me, navigations
by means of compass and map to find

unnamed mountain ponds he could call his own.
He still did. And also the time he and his brother
set a field of brush ablaze with their father’s
magnifying glass. But not the birth of his son
on the coldest day on record or the party at which
he met my mother who’d come with
another man. After an early tea, we drove to the ocean
and watched the sky’s coals burn down.
He began to recite Henry V again.
It was Saint Crispin’s Day. He was king.


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