E. G. Burrows


It used to be
     one doughboy at parade rest,
a cannon mired in cement,
     and the copperplate general
on his rocking horse,
     all fire and Roman Empire,
green from casque to fetlock.

Forget the men in steel,
     the dead at Agincourt.
forget the trail of shields
     on the sea-road back from India,
that marching among historians,
     the pennants uncurling
over the rainbow tents and the soldiers
     not yet stone.

Now only name after name
     on a black stone with reflections
of those who stand wondering:
     where are the banners, the long bows?

In a boy’s room I hefted
     the rifle he said his great granddad
shouldered in the frontier wars.
     I could scarcely lift
what might have been marble or lead.
     That was the boy who died
that year or the year after. Something
     burst in his stomach, a shell
exploded, a white light pierced his brain.

     Now how should I honor him,
with what monument, what star?
     In what useless war was he slain?