On the ride to work each day
I watch the soldiers’ cemetery pass.
Everything appears equal there,
stone tablets standing at attention,
grass trimmed by wiry brown-skinned men.
I see a lady bend down;
sets a cup full of wild flowers before two stones.
I feel a hitch in my breath to watch.
Flags ever in evidence,
the here and now of this place
and this day, each grave is adorned
with a tiny standard, its solemn face.
A warm day, end of May
I roll to a stop, set my kickstand down,
senses immediately assaulted
by a most deep and haunting sound.
My legs walk away from the Harley standing.
I stood open witness, his one-man parade,
tartan kilt, regal attire,
pipes slung over his shoulder,
moaning, set the morning afire.
The perfect precision of his gait,
distance practiced, known too well.
Here marched the spirits of these soldiers
to ring their lives with his mournful bell.
My heart was flushed with guilt in its watching.
His lady, with a single flower,
came to gather up her man,
his pipes with their mournful singing.
She took his arm with her hand.
I went to the stone of her choosing
where Ian the first was lain,
then to the end of the piper’s walk,
the sky shed a tear of rain.
These eyes confused in their seeing.
A newer stone whose name the same,
here lies Ian the third.
I followed the voice of the piper,
loneliest sound ever heard.
And there was Ian the Junior,
standing aside with his wife,
a fair compliment of mourners
bidding farewell to a life.
What greed mine curiosity shown.
The pipes trailed away in their singing,
a reverend mumbled words to the sky
that Lord, they are brave in their going,
these lads to their sweet by and by.
A final note owned the moment
to soar with its spirit way up high.
The crack of twenty-one rifles,
exclamation marks against the sky.
What mortal undone was I.
Ian the second passed by me,
his proud pipes bellowed once more.
His wife let fall of her flower
on top of that last mortal door.
And he paced from Ian to Ian,
this man no one could save,
whose soldier’s sin was still to be living
with father and son in their graves.
And the rain hid my face from his eyes.
Those without Graves was published by International Veterans Poetry Archives 2004
© 2017 artwork, music & words
conceived by & property of
Tom (WordWulf) Sterner 2017 ©