Today is Memorial Day, a day to honor those who sacrificed their lives in our military. I am sharing a poem from my chapbook Kin Types about a sister who awaits word from her brother who is a soldier in WWI.
Once and Now His letter, once wet and now dry, once wrinkled now smoothed against her breast, once a receptacle for all he could not say, the lone poppy in the field, the striped sky, not the mud, men, horses, bullets, shovels. Definitely not, but she suspects as much. She listens to her husband outside the church door, reads the casualty lists, hovers around those waiting. Now her big brother’s letter like his touch on their dying mother’s cheek, is enough. He’s been long a soldier, the bachelor patriarch. In the early days he wrote pages of the trembling sweep of the Pacific, ancient trees and reeds poking like magic sticks from the water, a field of buttercups near the Presidio, a borrowed horse he rode. Given their immigrant circumstances, the career had seemed wise until now, with Huns like red devils leering down from propaganda posters jeering them with their German names, a town friend’s Dachshund ripped from her arms, his brains smashed on the pavement, onto her shoes. Shoes she showed Clara, pointing, See, see how dangerous they are in their hate! The knock sneaks up on her from behind. She has turned to put the letter in the ribbon- tied stack, so standing between fourteen years of letters and the knock, she knows that this is not the paperboy coming for his coin. She knows what a ridiculous leap her mind has made, but still she is certain about the paper, and it is a paper telegram. Without opening it, she slips the Western Union under the grosgrain. Once busy, she has all the time in the world now. Clara Mulder née Waldeck 1884-1953 Caledonia, Michigan, United States
Clara has received the dreaded telegram that will validate her worst fears--that her laughing, vibrant brother will not be coming home.
I chose a very mild–in this case British–stamp with WWI propaganda.