Here rests in
an American soldier
known only to God…
Here, lies are solemn.
Here, lies are told
in the cadence of boot heels ringing on stone,
in the snap of a bolt shooting home
in the breech of a polished rifle, held at port arms
in white gloved hands.
Here, we fold our flag
and tell ourselves
the soldier died bravely
in a just cause.
Dead men cannot lie.
Here, all causes are lost.
Here, the living let stones tell the lies
the dead cannot.
To sooth sore hearts, tales are told
of glory in battle,
and courage under fire.
Here, the paths of glory
a shade of brown like dried blood
scuffed into the paving stones
by the slow turn
and turnabout march
of the Guard of Honor
in roped off sacred ground
in front of the Tomb of the Unknown.
Here, lies are told by Presidents and generals.
Here, chiseled stone names no names.
Here, the truth lies sleeping under stone.
Under lies, the truth rests,
but not in peace.
The dead have chisels that cut the heart.
Note: The snapshots were taken in July 2004. During a trip to D.C. I took the opportunity to wander about Arlington National Cemetery. The day was hot and humid, and it felt slightly surreal to watch the Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown do their precision drill in full dress uniform with nary a drop of sweat showing, while sweaty tourists in t-shirts and shorts, including myself, shuffled about with cameras clicking. I wrote the first draft of the poem that night in my hotel room. I’ve posted pictures I took that day at Arlington and the poem on the old Tent Show on the defunct Salonblogs, so it’s all old yada, but I was surprised to find that I had never posted them here at the latest iteration of this blog. It is a Tent Show Revival.