by Stephen Barry
Kindergarten commandos in the year of ‘65
we played out father’s youth
when they, as heroes,
strode the earth
and vanquished dragons.
With plastic Thompsons and pine cone hand grenades
we played our games
striving to be the men they were.
In Spring we walked the Avenue behind them
and scrambled for the casings
that fell beneath the wreath they lay
before the rifle guard salute.
All Summer at the beach
We gazed upon the living memories-
Mr. Ryan’s metal hand, a Salerno souvenir,
Uncle Lenny’s missing toes, left somewhere in the Chosin,
the scar on Aaron’s leg a memory of Midway.
When we could not play outside
like Medieval monks fingering relics
we crept into attics and garages
to seek the objects of our devotion –
the faded ribbons and bits of silver and bronze,
tokens of great deeds,
the flier’s cap with fifteen mission flap,
the Japanese flag in Sully’s garage,
the old tin pot of Charlie’s dad
dented by the seawall at Inchon.
As we played that Fall
Danny’s brother laughed
as he smoked and dreamt of cars
while listening to “Eve of Destruction”.
Little thinking of three years hence
and a place called Quang Tri,
and the day the telegram arrived
after which we never played the games again.