They insist I think of war, and yet I always think of you, mother, though I recall not a single word we ever spoke of war, that flesh could tear and blood swamp the sand; that one is just, or not, to footslog into battle and shoot and kill and even die upon demand.
Red and white and blue and cotton candy, thirty-six inch flags festoon facades of brick box houses, dreariness costumed for the day with shiny celebration crowned at evening with sparklers and ice cream; thundering ashes herald colors briefly before the sullen, sulking fall to blackened sidewalks where the beer-stinking men in tobacco stained shirts you told me not to talk to slovenly slump aside the fire engines as the bloated, weary wives chase home children who have now forgotten celebration. The crisp morning marchers and their rhythmic beat who with bugles and their drums paraded proudly are now as silent as the guns and soldiers no longer in procession, not seen again until the evening news shows body bags on beaches on some other day.
I know, now, when you avowed the Easter Rising, it was not Christ, your Lord, of whom you spoke, but of men and women, young, proud, and some who were only hungry, gathering in the fields and in the mountains, marching, marching, marching blindly through the night and into day, through the mists and by the rivers, not to capture the flag of freedom but to become your Martyrs, while Others, wielding weapons, butchers and the butchered, survivors donning robes of Justice for the executions.
Grandfather from a crumpled photograph regards posterity, defies judgment of us all; no nation’s costume ever weighed his shoulders; intelligence he gathered sheltered under rock while Black and Tan colors darkened your toddler world, careening you so high, the rifle first a truncheon then a jungle gym, fearsome, until the chaos and the cruelty receded with the dawn; was it black and tan and red of blood that rankled dreams, a smite forever upon freedom’s call; igniting bombs, no not mere Troubles, mother, fulsome battles of a war.
You agreed with him: you had not crossed an ocean, breathed a lifetime here upon a foreign shore to release both sons, or either, to a jungle death for some unknown rich man’s gain. He, more than you, esteemed Law and Order; natural law allowed that he abduct them to frozen reaches receiving the rebelling native-born. A war not blessed by the Holy Father cannot be a War that calls HIS sons to die. He rejects a hand to walk together with the Peaceful; to private pain, a solitary solution is all.
The small screen flashes black and white impressions, leaders slain, cities burning, choppers feeding poison to the air; a child’s screams inside fires, all are raging; blood-soaked men on stretchers without limbs. Chants echo charging men in suits with children’s slaughter and youth in jeans with cowardice and fear. Communication crumbles into chaos, its reverberating silence strikes out with pain.
Unlike yours, my life collected pathways: railroad cars and ferries, jumbo jets and caravans, sleeping trains and rented automobiles careening through the darkness into splendor;cardboard camps transfigured into sparkling cities when cartographers and politicians proclaim a nation’s line is crossed. Outside schools, inside churches, in the harbors where the veteran gunboats rest, on many cars and on more country houses, playgrounds, courts, malls, gas stations, airports, synagogues, temples, in the fields and the stadiums, at the theater and the mortuary as well, in town centers and on the outskirts the colors: the red, the white, the blue, and the stars all scream.
Halliburton, Kellogg Industries, income inequality, Boeing, Nestle, homelessness, United Tech, Northrup Grumman, PTSD, BAE Systems, mass shooting, Lockheed Martin, rape, General Dynamics, Dyn Corp and Flourer, failing schools, Elite Foods.
They insist I think of War…