The Greatest Generation
( for Sam Hynes)
He walks like a lamplighter through my mind,
in the brown bomber jacket he wore
over whites and to class in the fall,
Marine Corps issue from late ’44,
when he flew Hellcats at Mindinao.
A line that day, Her beauty, like a bent
bow, loosed him on misremembering,
how it scrapes and daubs at memories
and paints a past we wish had been,
how when he was a teen
he recalled a lament for Carnival,
So we’ll go no more a roving
as rowing, and took it to heart as pastoral:
eight sweatered Ivy League athletes
at dusk, oars upright,
shouldering their shell to its rack for the night.
A shot cut short that reverie.
Two flights down in the parking lot
we gather, hear…Dallas…lie in state…
on his car’s radio, news from the spot,
go back, pack papers, silently separate.
We watched the slow march of caisson, coffin,
captain-less horse, black-veiled woman,
then went on as before,
though he mothballed the jacket won in the war.
Published in Feb. 3,2017 TLS