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June 02, 2006

Memorial Day Poetry  War and Peace

One more from Jay Leeming.

Let me set the scene. This past Monday morning, Memorial Day, on the lakeside terrace at the Hotel Cheguamegon in Ashland, Wisconsin, on the shore of Lake Superior. A glorious breakfast with my daughter Molly and a dozen or so dear friends, some old, some new, the capstone to a wonderful celebratory weekend together. Our friend Mary has already read aloud this hilarious Leeming poem, and everyone is in high spirits. Meanwhile, in the park next door, Memorial Day festivities are underway: on the stage in the bandshell, aging veterans in VFW hats, occasional volleys as the color guard fires its salutes.

Then Mary reads this:

Supermarket Historians

All historians should be supermarket cashiers.
Imagine what we'd learn;
"Your total comes to $10.66,
and that's the year the Normans invaded Britain."
Or, "That'll be $18.61, the year
the Civil War began."

Now all my receipts are beaches
where six-year-olds find bullets in the sand.
My tomatoes add up to Hiroshima,
and if I'd bought one more carton of milk
the cashier would be discussing the Battle of the Bulge
and not the Peloponnesian War.

But I'm tired of buying soup cans
full of burning villages,
tired of hearing the shouts of Marines
storming beaches in the bread aisles.
I want to live in a house
carved into a seed
inside a watermelon —
to look up at the red sky
as shopping carts roll through the aisles
like distant thunder.

The first stanza is greeted with delighted laughter, but the laughter soon fades as the awareness grows that pretty much any number one can think of — up through 2006, anyway — corresponds to some horrific battle in some unimaginably savage war.

What a strange species we are. Isn't it time we grow up?

Posted by Jonathan at June 2, 2006 10:59 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb


I'm really glad you expressed this Jon, I have been thinking about it more too. I really think things are changing though - somehow. My "heads up their butts politicaly" family of origin are really waking up, things have gotten so extreme. They are always a good baromiter for me. Even with their churches telling them to ignore politics.

Posted by: nan at June 3, 2006 10:50 AM