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From the Poetry Archives.... for Veteran's Day, 11/11/2011

posted Nov 10, 2011, 1:34 PM by Kathryn Simpson   [ updated Nov 10, 2011, 1:50 PM ]
Many years ago I took a trip with some friends and we had a most amazing experience in Washington D.C. The memorials to Presidents Lincoln and Jefferson, the National Mall, the overall intense sense of place.... It was all a creative flashpoint for me, visually and spiritually. Now, I am not a poet. I have written some horrific poetry, but I think everyone who uses language on any level has done so at some point. I'm trying not to beat myself up over it anymore. It's how I learn. Specifically how I've learned to stick to fiction.

Anyway, given the gravity and tenor of the last 10-plus years in our nation, and the specific dignity of this day in general, I wanted to share a piece of writing that came from that decade-ago D.C. trip. It's not much. Just a piece of writing that might not be horrible. Or is less horrible, at any rate, and my meager attempt to honor the pinacle of that trip for me. 

Back then, both my mother and one of my writing mentors were kind enough to encourage me to submit it to VFW Magazine. Those folks were gracious enough to publish it in an issue a short time later. I am not a poet, but...if I could be, I'd hope to be inspired so viscerally every time I held my pen. My years-ago trip to the capital was profound. These few stanzas were the only way I could process the magnitude of emotion I felt then and still feel for this specific holiday.

That said, I thank you, soldiers of every age and generation. 


I visited a memorial
on my Spring Break

I visited a thousand memories
I would never know—
I was born too late

I missed the conflict
I missed the pain
and hate
and judgment
and fear
and anger
and pride

But I saw the names
of people I could never know
who died with pains I may never imagine

Names carved in black granite
set in a wall of earth

I touched the names
and watched the breeze blow tiny flags—
emblems these people had died for

I saw the names
and touched the granite
and wept for thousands of lives lost
in a war I was born too late to understand
in horrors I’m too small to comprehend

I looked
and knelt
and touched
and thanked God for these lives
whose reward was
carved in black granite

--ksimpson, 1991