16 April 2011

I Present to You...

I had practiced the steps and the movements.
I had memorized the speech.
I had folded and creased the stripes
Thirteen times and tucked them
Into a right triangle of white stars,
Back at the base.

I had carried the real coffin,
Empty as it was,
Up and down stairs
Around turns and out the door,
In unison.

I had practiced my slow salute
In a mirror
With my hand.
In a field
With my rifle.

But how was I ever ready
To make that first trade?
A mother’s greatest gift
For a geometric lump of cloth,
On behalf of the president.

The priest speaks
Image from Col. Sanders
Here we go for Day 15. The Poet's United Thursday Think Tank prompt was to write about a first. As I tap most of my creativity, I'm finding that the NaPoWri poems are getting more and more personal for me. I got this idea about something that was very difficult for me to do for the first time (and every subsequent time), present a widow with the flag that draped her son's or daughter's casket at a funeral. The title and last line are from what I would say as I handed over the flag: It started with "On behalf of the president of the United States" and ended with, "I present to you, this flag." The picture is not the greatest, but it was in the Creative Commons, and it shows an accurate depiction. Notice the other Airmen almost gone, while the leader of the detail stands alone. Also, it was the only Air Force  photo I found. These are the longest process notes I have ever written, but I must also note my other inspiration for this piece, Lolamouse, who posted an incredible - and incredibly personal poem, based on the same prompt. 
Holy Moly, that was a lot!


  1. indeed, how do we do the first ...?

  2. Thanks, all.

    Isabel, it is a pretty unfair trade.

  3. Mike,
    Thank you so much for mentioning me as an inspiration for your incredible poem. I can't even imagine having to perform the task you describe. I am enjoying your more personal poetry. It has a depth to it, even the funny or silly ones. Write on!

  4. What a strong poem. I think the personal ones are always the best all round.

  5. Thanks, Mouse. The first time was the hardest. Well-maybe not. But that duty was also very rewarding.

  6. So sad, but honest and true. It is hard when prompts touch upon the raw edges of our lives!~ YOU did a great job, with this one~