By the Rules
Sent by we members of the military
and duly printed the morning before Veterans Day
the letter to Miss Manners requests
she address the behaviors of those who don't know
the etiquette of burying —
courtesy of Department of Defense —
a son or a daughter
a husband or a wife
a sister or a brother
a mother a father
a friend a neighbor a co-worker
the All-American down the street
that kid who knocked down
cardboard boxes behind 7-Eleven
or pumped Liberty gas
for less than minimum wage
before joining up to see the world
and get an education from Uncle Sam.
It is not necessary. . . .
and We do not expect. . . .
the letter writer directs to you
— meaning each of us —
to stand, salute, say thank you
his orders so composed
they mix as matters of fact
big capped words like Duty
and Service to Country
ended these days at the end of a tripwire
with bits of black burqa floating in the air.
Anyone should know the rules
of engagement at our burial grounds:
when to put your right hand
over your own heart that's left
where to sit in the front row
if you're family whether to stand
how to dress and who gets the flag
raised from the casket on the caisson
tracked by a rider-less horse
bearing boots backward.
Miss Manners can imagine
what standard operating procedures command
at the dispatch of white-gloved Honor Guard
who never bat an eye as they watch
you let loose with tears at the first note of Taps
or double over your gut at the wheezing whistle
of three volleys of seven guns at once,
the kick-back pinging off hard oak in the distance.
the way the letter writer isn't,
the emotional state of the bereaved
makes room for spontaneous gestures of gratitude
never and not once unnecessary acts of love.
© Maureen E. Doallas