Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Different Sort of Memorial Day Parade

I almost always attend a Memorial Day parade. Last year I walked to the end of my street and watched a modest assembly of veteran and active servicemen and women pass by, along with town officials, school bands, and a variety of children sports and service groups, honoring the day.
I expect to watch pretty much the same retinue from the same corner in a couple of days – Memorial Day 2012, but tonight I will attend a different sort of parade – a parade of poems – at a Memorial Day reading at The Buttonwood Tree in Middletown, CT.

Yes, you heard right -  a Memorial Day Weekend poetry reading including works by U.S. military veterans and featuring the work of Michael Lepore and Lisa Siedlarz.

I’m familiar with Lisa’s debut collection I Dream My Brother Plays Baseball, about her brother’s life as a soldier in Afghanistan, published by Clemson University in 2009. Her powerful and varied points of view emerge through three sections: Sister speaks, Brother speaks, and Pictures speak. The collection brought the climate, conditions, cause, and calamity of the war to me as no news story could.
Last year Lisa followed I Dream My Brother Plays Baseball with What We Sign Up For: War Poems, a continuation of her brother’s experience. In the past she has also facilitated a 16-week writing workshop with Vietnam veterans at the V.A. Hospital in West Haven, CT, and edited an anthology of their writing called A Season of Now. She is continuously active in veterans' causes by participating in public service announcements for Post Traumatic Stress Outreach programs and organizing annual Stockings for Soldiers drives.
I’ve always loved a parade. I expect to be even more moved by tonight’s parade of words, a prelude to which I’ll start ( from the pdf of I Dream My Brother Plays Baseball, available online).
Memorial Day by Lisa L. Siedlarz

Down the street from where Private

First Class Lenzi used to shoot

baskets, his nephews untangle

a flagpole rope from the branch

of a White Oak tree.

The boys hear dribbling and whoops

a pick up game on the same courts

where Uncle Joe taught them layups,

free throws. Untying the knot taxes

their six and eight year old fingers.

Morning sun is criminally bright.

The boys secure and hoist the flag

over the newly installed plaque

in memory of the twenty year old pfc.


My brother’s e-mail tells of a BBQ

just like ours, burgers, dogs, salads.

There was music and wiffle ball.

Yes, he writes, its one hundred degrees

dusty as hell, and I played wiffle ball.

They even gave us a special treat

get a load of the picture I’ve attached.

On screen my brother, red faced

and smiling, holds two lobster tails.

Beside him a whole case on ice,

lined up in rows, a mass grave.

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