Thursday, March 25, 2010

Reunions: Brother, May 5, 2009 (Poem)

Reunions: Brother, May 5, 2009

I won't know the details
to play back your timeline.

Not the hour of death. Maybe not the place.
Certainly not the words you couldn't say.

You won't be buried on a hill
where water runs down, not into, hallowed ground.

Rules binding grief are for the living
not the dead.

I won't be able to find you
in the oldest part of the cemetery
since the Civil War.

Your wife won't get a folded flag.
We won't hear Taps
or the snap-to volleys of 21-gun salutes.

You won't have a headstone
remarking the deaths of the brother and sister
none of us knew.

You won't lie next to Audie Murphy.

The battle you fought won't be documented.
You didn't die because of wounds
suffered in military action.

Your full name won't go on a v-shaped wall
where widows rub paper on reflective stone,
daughters tell of beaus, and sons just want to forget.

You were 4F when your brother,
two years older, was crashing APCs
and dodging agent orange.

You were nobody prominent: Not an explorer
or a president. Not a general or an admiral.
Not a Supreme Court justice. Not a literary
or medical figure. Not a minority.
And never a famous woman.

You were nobody found deserving of honors.

You are just somebody I love.

© Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

I wrote this poem about my brother Patrick William Doallas in February 2009, when it became obvious that he was not going to survive his cancer. He'd already lived longer than his doctors had expected. Patrick died on May 5, 2009; he is buried in Venice, Florida. This poem was read aloud at his funeral Mass. Patrick was born March 25, 1950. He would have been 60 today.

This poem is the companion of "Reunions: Father, July 19, 1990". My brother and father were very close. If truth be told, Patrick never got over our father's death.

For those who might not know, the acronym APC means armored personnel carrier. My brother Carl drove APCs while serving in Vietnam. Patrick, like Carl, was drafted but subsequently rejected for military service. Carl served an extended tour of duty.

Many of the references in the poem are to Arlington National Cemetery, where my father is buried, a place very much of history and honor. The "v-shaped wall" referred to in the poem is, of course, the extraordinary Maya Lin memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, in Washington, D.C.


Anonymous said...

Oh, Maureen, this is such a tribute. There are all kinds of heroes. Not all are military. I'm sorry for your loss. I'm sure it is still very fresh in your heart.

Glynn said...

Do we ever really get over a father's death? Or a brother's? No, we don't. But we can, as you have done, honor them with the beauty of words from our hearts.

sarah said...

I'm so sorry about your brother :-(

Helen said...

I am so sorry. Your tribute to him is beautiful.

Sandra Heska King said...

I was struck by your last line, "You are just somebody I love." In the present.

Very touching. Hugs.

Anonymous said...

honorably loved

Unknown said...

I am always thankful that someone takes the time to write their stories, memories. You are devoted to remembering well. My uncle was in Vietnam, minesweeping and dodging agent orange, too and he died of cancer. We have lost much to both war and cancer. You bind these two together in a very loving way. And as Nancy said, honorably.

Megan Willome said...

So good, Maureen! And thanks for explaining the link with your father's death and Arlington. I wouldn't have gotten that from the poem alone, but that info enhances the poem.