Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Sonnet

I heard this yesterday on A Prairie Home Companion, read by Garrison Keillor, who also wrote the poem. I don't listen to PHC much, but as a kid I loved the Tales from Lake Wobegone tapes my father had. My dad has been a big fan of PHC for years, and somehow Garrison Keillor's voice and mannerisms have gotten all tangled up with my emotions about my dad. So hearing this sonnet read in Keillor's voice gave me a big old lump in my throat. It's simply beautiful. One of the richest, truest poems I've found about war and death. You can listen to Keillor read the poem here.

Memorial Day Sonnet
by Garrison Keillor

We’re here to honor those who went to war
Who did not wish to die, but did die, grievously,
In eighteen sixty-one and in two-thousand four
Though they were peaceable as you or me.
Young and innocent, they knew nothing of horror—
Singers and athletes, and all in all well-bred.
Their sergeants, mercifully, made them into warriors,
And at the end, they were moving straight ahead.
As we look at these headstones, row on row on row,
Let us see them as they were, laughing and joking,
On that bright irreverent morning long ago.
And once more, let our hearts be broken.
God have mercy on them for their heroic gift.
May we live the good lives they would have lived.

1 comment:

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

I don't know how I missed hearing this. Our whole family loves listening to PHC every week (well, except Anna, of course).

Beautiful poem.