Column: Poem commemorates the District of Columbia

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 30, 2007

By Tom Ehrhardt, Paths to Peace

&8220;Our Trip To Washington, D.C.&8221;

Let&8217;s go

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Let&8217;s go and see this place

Its lessons in pale monuments and power.

We&8217;ll walk beneath the massive

columns &8212;

Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln &8212;

Americans, three tourists,

for many hours.

At the National Archives the lines were long and whispered.

By hushed green light we filed past old words

to see how thin and faded documents become a Nation

We The People&8230;These Truths We Hold&8230;

Not to be ruled by distant kings

or kings among us

By CitizensOur Declaration

We stepped onto The Mall that day &8212;

Between the buildings flat and gray

That marked our place &8212; and in the sky

We saw black choppers whoop whooping by

Ordered by men with feet of clay

Late afternoons.

These endless places in stone

which took our breath away

Guadalcanal, Anzio, Iwo Jima, and Normandy &8212;

We charcoal-traced remembered names

as their memory fell into long dark fields of thousands

reflected back and through us &8212;

we try to imagine but we cannot

Could our tears be tears from the dead

who see that we honor them with ever more?

From places older than even stone

Falluja, Basrah, Kabul, and Kandahar &8212;

In the morning at Dupont Circle we descend The Metro.

It became a favorite thing.

Above our heads these words from Leaves of Grass

&8220;Thus in silence in dreams projections, returning resuming

I sit by the restless all the dark night some are so young

some suffer so much.

I recall the experience sweet and sad&8221;

Near Epinal in France

5,000 white markers on a flat green field that seems to float.

Mom&8217;s cousin Harry McKinley Reed

gone after only five days at the front

&8220;the rounds fell too close&8221; his captain wrote.

From Mac&8217;s letters across this time and space

funny, kind, open and so brave

his troop ship far at sea he reached for home and scribed

&8220;I like to watch the ocean very much. It&8217;s like having someone

rub your back&8221;

and then went off and died.

&8220;We shall not sleep though poppies grow&8221;

the wars are way beyond control

on our last day we&8217;re out of bed

we head toward Arlington to honor the dead.

What decider chose September to be the public view?

To take our wars to distant landscapes overnight

while frightened news

as daily as the papers rule.

At Arlington the row on row from failing hands

the public view.

Tom Ehrhardt is a member of Paths to Peace in Freeborn County.