“Drawing the Fire Watch” Veteran’s Day 2015
It’s dark-thirty on a May morning
and I dutifully take my scheduled post
at the front–the bow–of the barracks
to watch my shipmates sleeping fast.
I’ve drawn the fire watch.
Dedication is not celebrated in the dark.
The moon signs songs to the romantic;
the dutiful stands on the wall and waits
for his or her liberating moment to dance.
Our time will come to watch how the fire
lights what the darkness tries to hide.
Patriotism. Pride. Duty. It’s our turn now.
And in this time, I wonder:
How many stood to tend the bivouacs
stoking embers to watch them scatter
into the night air to become falling ash?
How many threw coal into a fiery furnace
to hear the return of the sound of churning,
turning toward something promised like victory?
Whose eyes squinted in the sun as it rose
upon open, blue waters so far from home
that one forgets the names of familiar rivers?
Whose blouse was wet with the jungle steam
so that the uniform became second skin
against the youth it was sewn to cover?
Whose boots are so worn that the standing
inside of them are the ministry of feet meant
for marching to simple cadences calling?
This was their turn for patriotism, pride, and duty.
They return in ranks to stoke the memory of we the people
as they pass in a summer parade formation turning toward
the sun like an American river running red. . .white. . .and blue
their time-worn, but newly-pressed uniforms still clinging
to a quiet call to march, the ministry of the men and women
responding to the simple cadence called from the rear:
Left. Right. Left.
One. Two. Three. Four.
Watch any one of them as they pass
Watch them take a singular breath.
With each one regardless of age
They are drawing a fire.