Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Folded Flag

Memorial day was yesterday, but the words didn't come to me until today.  For my father...

The folded flag sits
inside its plastic sleeve.
Medals hang from the dark blue cloth of the covered cotton batting
inside the cherry wood case
on the middle shelf of my china cabinet.

Forty three years passed by
since you died at twenty-nine.
My aunts and uncles grieve together,
sending your picture into your hometown paper.
My mother grieves alone,
her memories still too private to share.

The anniversary of your death comes each year,
so close to Memorial Day,
Two chances to remember, two chances to forget.
There is no grave to visit.
The markers bearing your name
stand miles away from my home.

You're just a picture to my daughter.
An old scar, not a fresh wound.
You're just a picture to me too.
Gone, before I grew old enough
to remember you.
Dead, before I really lived.

Still, I pause for a moment,
after we unpack the camping gear,
to notice the flag waving from my neighbor’s porch -
A vet who fought in your war
(One who came home
One who truly never forgets).

And I think of you,
my black and white photo father.
A two-dimensional man,
occasionally made flesh and blood,
with borrowed memories,
because I have no memories of my own.

I wonder who you are,
who I would be if you had lived,
what I would lose if you survived.
My husband? My child?  My home? 
You created me, first with your life
and then with your death.

And the parade passes by.
Old men stick paper poppies
into the button holes of their lapels.
Mothers and wives adorn themselves
in red, white and blue, and gold star pins
dressed up to hear the bugler blow "Taps".

They lay flowers at graves and markers, 
wiping away the tear that escapes as the last mournful note plays. 
Then they move on with their lives
breaking bread at parties and picnics.

And I wonder if they know, too,
that we are your memorials.

copyright May 2012, Cristina Rehn


  1. What a beautiful way to commemorate your dad. Very poignant and moving. I'm sure he's proud of his little girl as he looks down from above. :)

  2. Commemorating your father in this way is a wonderful poem your children will always remember.

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Christina. It was a beautiful tribute to your dad and all the brave men who didn't make it back to their families.