Wednesday, November 10, 2010

By the Rules (Poem)

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

with Respect
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.

She's sure,
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


Hannah Stephenson said...

Whew. Breathtaking.

Etiquette gives us certainty, it's helps us to know how to behave (despite how we feel).

Lisa said...

This is amazing. Thank you, Maureen. Bookmarked.
~ Lisa

Anonymous said...

Strong stuff. Emotive poetry, my friend.

Luke @ WordSalad

S. Etole said...

Your words leave imprints ...

Susanne Barrett said...

In tears powerful and timely and True. Thank you.

Jenne' R. Andrews said...

yes-- this is terrific-- so measured and sure-- I love the right hand over the heart that's left-- a hard and gloomy day in the US of A-- at least Dubya is high-tailin' it home! xxxj

Diane Walker said...

I think this may be your best work yet. So subtle, so powerful...