Remembrance Day is coming. I will remember.
I almost wept today.
I almost wept for distant, unknown siblings
who packed up most of what they needed, entrusting it
to new brothers and sisters in filthy tent spaces
in places where God shone first.
I almost wept because I forget that there are kindred,
heartbroken souls who picked up swords, shields, pens
and went to war.
They bruised themselves to pay back
what they had not yet earned, and cast down lots
to see which brother would deliver the news
to which mother, father, uncle, son.
Life, they said, is bigger than a sum of actions.
Freedom, they yelled, as they signed on lines
and razored young hair, is more than expecting others to give
when all that gets done is taking.
You, they screamed, mean more to me
than I mean to myself.
That we can love and hate and fear each other
as much or as little as we want
or desire or crave or stand
isn’t a right – it’s a privilege
won by those who guard my shores
even though I didn’t ask,
and keep safe every delicate mote
of an existence I can’t live without
yet often can’t explain.
So why do they stand in places where
steel rain brings agony and the sun
makes dust that cannot bind wounds?
Why do they stand on lines and make war,
humanity’s true negotiation, when all I do
is stare, lost, at numbers and figures
and soft gentle things
and wonder where everything went wrong
when it isn’t going wrong at all.
but only because they refuse to let it be wrong,
although I, bathed in choice, try to make it so. It’s right
because their blood, leaking into soil and paddy
and ground and sand and jungle and hedgerow
and ocean and beach and bamboo prison cage
is the guilty fuel I fill my tank with.
I might want to weep, yet I brush away any tear
that might be seen by anyone, not the least of whom
whose sacrifice reminds me that I didn’t get here
You brought me here.
You wept on ground not yet given a name
and jagged wire not yet holy – you bled
tears and gore and ragged, unheard last breaths
and said that I could work this piece of ground,
if only to borrow it awhile
from those for whom I’d not yet wept.