On the Marble Lot (Memorial Day 2021)

Events at Arlington National Cemetery

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila


It is not

the land you left,

that’s for sure,

nor the one you longed 

to come back to,

that you dreamt of 

in the mud and blood

of the war, your war,

counting the minutes

to home.


Not this pristine

rock-lined acre,

flanked with flags

and loved ones, today,

shoes forever shined,

inspections complete,

almost a half-million of you, now,

young blood cold,




If we lean in close

after banners and bands

have gone, 

packed away

for next year,

will we hear echoes

of your voices

singing anthems for

a nation planned with care

and since,

 a beacon for the world,

or will we hear new requiems 

for the fading glory

that honors you 

in stone?


Is there still a hallelujah

crying out

from the rocks–

from your bones–

or a dirge from rank and file

who paid it all

in that mud with your blood,

before, they say,

the marble lot, nearly full,

will be closed?


In each stilled life beneath,

or yet over there,

or somewhere else

nobody knows,

do taps play in a loop

in your mind and heart, today, 

in a long-playing skip,

Why, Why, Why?

are other flags trampled,

flung aside and burned

by both those who do

and do not



Those whose blood pulses still,

above the dirt,

who seem

to comprehend no cost

no glory

no loss

whose darker fantasies

of revolution 

never take them to–

warn them of–

the abandoned potters’ fields

history shows?


But we will continue honoring

you here

and there and there and there,


but token recompense

for your lives gone

from us,

for us,

for others.

Hear us through the the din of

the callow dreamers,

coup-makers, nation-breakers

who may never comprehend

honor and ageless gratitude,

and why we will always fly,

with respect and love,

millions of flags

on the marble lot

they would

so recklessly disown. 


You, at least,

will rest in peace

they will never know.


Related redux: On The Occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Vietnam War Memorial… | pnissila

Image source: Events_at_Arlington_National_Cemetery_130527-G-ZX620-041.jpg (3842×2556) (wikimedia.org)

Arlington National Cemetery

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