veterans day

and I remember there was a woman
sprawled on a path in okinawa
her face in the dirt her black dress hitched
above her knees her legs already swollen
and the little pot that death thieved from her
all her maternal caring
spilled on the path beyond her fingers

I asked the chaplain
what would become of her
he told me through cigarette smoke
a bulldozer would put her under
that was the day after easter

no ancestral tomb for her
no sealed gate on Okinawa

and today a day for veterans
I did not like the songs
I heard touted on radio and television
and in the evening watched with friends
the documentary on surgeons in iraq
and their faithful assistants
and soldiers and wounded marines joking

and those purple hearts on the bare chests
and ill fated iraqis hauled in from car bombs
and that chaplain with his prayers
hoping to fit the right words for the dead

—From Walking in Snow, 2008