Memorial Day. Hancock’s
motley wobbles down Main Street,
a small-town awkward parade
Norman Rockwell would have admired.
Veterans bulge from their uniforms.
Boy Scouts lack matching pants and shirts.
Girl Scouts giggle and break ranks
to greet their friends in the crowd.
We watch from the café and wonder
how the war dead will respond
when two Springfield rifles fire
over their graves: blank ammo
less resounding than a real load.
We doubt that the dead appreciate
the flag-flutter, speech and prayer.
They would prefer to rise and rebuke
the crowd, but no one would listen.
The marching band would strike up
“God Bless America.” Selectmen
would turn their backs. Veterans
would nurse their flasks. Police
would shove the carcasses back
into the earth and rebuke them
with a few strokes of their clubs.
The cloudy heat coughs up insects
by the million. The small crowd swarms
toward the oldest village graveyard
where the Union dead lie as flat
as when they fell at Gettysburg,
Antietam, Bull Run, Fredericksburg.
We greet friends tromping through
the café to the bathroom and back.
We agree that summer’s likely
to be hot, the pond shrinking
in their sockets, the hills already
smoking with a pearly mist.