A Memorial Day Poem That Celebrates Those Who See It From a Different Vantage Point

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today is Memorial Day, once known as Decoration Day, a federal holiday in the United States for honoring and mourning the military personnel who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces in one of the 123 wars this country has been engaged in. Carleton Cronin, likely one of the few West Hollywood residents who has served in the armed forces, chronicles a celebration of Memorial Day in May 1956 from an interesting point of view.

MEMORIAL DAY 1956

A cantata for three voices and chorus

FIRST and SECOND SOLDIER –

…Hear those damned drums again!

-Sad. And they walk so slowly.

…Suppose there are more flags this year.

-Everybody wants to carry a flag.

…That new monument –

-..crushed Casey’s coffin.

…Did it?

-Yes. Of course there wasn’t much of him in it.

… Should have used a smaller box.

-More monuments..

…More speeches.

-More flags.

… More coffins.

-More drums.

CHORUS –

The mayor takes a deep breath..

He’s said all this before.

The crowd stamps on the ground,

Dusting their shoes, and sighs.

FIRST SOLDIER and THIRD SOLDIER

…The mayor must be fatter this year.

-He puffs harder.

…Same old song.

-There’s a new senator.

…Same old song.

-New faces.

…No new words.

-Same old song.

…Why don’t they leave us alone?

CHORUS –

Good weather now, rain last year.

The soldiers check their creases.

The auxiliary ladies fuss with their

Pointed caps – and the voices drone on.

FIRST SOLDIER and THIRD SOLDIER –

-You’re the “old soldier “here –

but I forget why..

…Because I was the first one in the cemetery.

-Oh. Did they know who you were?

…No. Even I forgot who I was.

-I remember who I was.

…Really? Who?

-My first name was Arthur.

…Don’t tell me more.

-I don’t know more.

…It’s just as well.

CHORUS –

A breeze slaps the lanyard

Against the flagstaff and

The flag moves out sullenly,

A half-hearted wave.

SECOND SOLDIER and THIRD SOLDIER –

-I think I used to be a printer.

…What did you print?

-Wedding announcements and –

…You should have made flags.

-I’d have made them larger.

This one is a little tight.

…It’s meant to be.

CHORUS –

The mayor speaks, the past

Commander speaks, the new

Senator speaks, the flag

Waves again – rifles fire.

FIRST SOLDIER and SECOND SOLDIER –

…Fusillade.

-What’s that?

…We used to call a rifle salute a fusillade.

-We called it a rifle salute.

…Same noise.

-For us?

…That’s what the mayor said.

-He must have forgot…

…He’s never been out of the state.

CHORUS –

Birds fly from trees and dogs

Spin around in fright.

Legionnaires look for their

Cars as the bugle sounds.

FIRST SOLDIER, SECOND SOLDIER and THIRD SOILDIER –

…Look at them shaking hands and nodding.

-Are they old friends?

…No. They forgot where they met

and just need to reassure each other.

-Taps. The bugler plays Taps.

…Our song.

-They’re leaving.

ALL VOICES and CHORUS –

Underground, the corpses

Do not care.

Another monument above them

Compresses the earth

And makes them rot faster.

Tears which once watered

The plots now are dried and

The ground would wither

But for the rain from a tending God.

Carleton Cronin – May, 1956

0 0 vote
Article Rating

5 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Vigilant
Vigilant
4 months ago

Rather touching even with its macabre elements. Roger Waters must have been channeling you Carl, when he produced AMUSED TO DEATH with Jeff Beck’s eerie guitar strains. It’s a brilliant and moving classic from 20 years ago.

carleton cronin
4 months ago
Reply to  Vigilant

Thanx for the note. This is my annual whimper against the horrors of war.

Vigilant
Vigilant
4 months ago

I only wish Wehoville had put the opinion on the front page rather than the ned of a column. AMUSED TO DEATH should be re released to show how we have regressed in spite of RW’s admonitions. Very sad but well appreciate your efforts then and now.

Henry E. (Hank) Scott
Admin
4 months ago
Reply to  Vigilant

Carleton’s very moving piece was published on the home page (aka the front page) of WEHOville.com

Vigilant
Vigilant
4 months ago

Ok. Seems it was at the end or of bottom of a full scroll on a laptop.
Maybe I’m upside down.