He stands alone, hands clasped in prayer,
yesterday’s image, frozen in time.
At his feet, the vestiges of life: red paper poppies,
now faded, blowing in the November wind.
A soldier, a statue in bronze,
and we move on by. Oblivious.
In attendance at his feet, a sweeping grid
of names: a patinated memorial
and a roll call of the dead.
They were our townsfolk once,
those boys with half-recognized faces,
boys we'd known in our schools,
seen on our streets
or on the playing fields.
Today they are but names hewn in stone
that you and I
Amid the sounds and the rush of the city,
head bowed, he beckons us to remember them,
his fellows of that last retreat,
and to remember the manner of their deaths
far, far from here and these busy streets,
struck dumb with fear, lying in the fields
and falling beneath the waves
where they bled and died,
young, nearly all young.
In silent tribute he stands, frozen in time
to remember him.
To remember them.
John Bell Smithback