It has been said that the fade of memory is a symptom of decaying sense. One loses the outline, the detail, over time. Color washed into water, the old forms oceanic, and yet. A blurred thing may be as particular as anything sharp. For some of these, the blur itself was the essence: reflection on water, the texture of sky, your life. Don’t make this love a bullet or a blade, and I won’t reduce its music to a marching drum.
For some, all learning is the remembering of what was already present in a soul before the dark days of sharp derangement before our bodies spilled into the soil. My brother’s blood is not your warpaint and my mother’s cry is not a call to your next battle. Wait.
When sense becomes senseless, let me blur with you, brother, that I may learn your life in concert with my own. Let the blood-drenched soil bloom until some new music comes. We are all out of tune. Teach yourself to us, again.
Your remains rest, your remains unfound. You were decorated, wept over; letters said you were tired, found peace of mind, slept with a pistol on your chest.
You fell at Battle of the Bulge, B-17 missing over the Aleutians; survived Omaha Beach, saved wounded, drowned in frozen seas, in training runs over Yuma, in POW camps in Burma. You volunteered after D-Day, 9/11; died at Iwo Jima, on impact, slowly in a trench; underwater, in midair, in the desert; your family searches still. You loved Tennyson, football, ice cream and Clarion Bells before sunset. You sang in the choir, stepped on a landmine, took fire in Kunar Province, in Afghanistan, Camp Sheehan, Fallujah.
The day you went missing, your son was born.
Your remains rest, your remains unfound. You were decorated, wept over; letters said you were tired, found peace of mind, slept with a pistol on your chest. Folded flags met your mothers, fathers, wives, daughters, sons; “Taps” played, then twenty-one guns.
You were in the glee club, physics, wrestling, the relay; long legs remembered, and dimples; a serious side and how you slept in class. You would be an aeronautics technician, a veterinarian, a teacher; practice medicine, take your son to Mt. Whitney, have dinner on the harbor, swim at the pier, return next football season and for Christmas, to hold your daughter for the first time.
You wrote your favorite Wordsworth lines in a textbook, “Grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.” We gather among remains, looking for more, as the living do, in silent reflection on the unknown of the All that you gave, marking hallowed ground with what we may not name.
Speaking of the nameless, may we remember them too. No sense being stingy with memory, with grief, with all the lost lives that we are taught to call nothing at all.