On this Memorial Day, remember my mother,
kicked out of the Army for having sex.
Or was it for being female?
No, not for being female, but for sex,
No, not for sex, but for the result of sex:
my eldest brother.
I can’t visit Mom’s Army-issued plaque –
it is miles away on a hilltop on the edge of an abyss.
That brother, the first, lies nameless next to her
creating pine cones that litter the ashed bones of each of them
because no such plaque could be issued for a boy, aged 25,
dead, by his own hand, to a mother poor and living on a mountain,
to a father also poor, living on a different mountain, also miles away.
The commander told the father he had better marry that girl,
better make it right
better to not shame the military than to not love the girl.
Two more children and fifteen years later the marriage was still not right,
not made right.
Fifty-five years later all those good soldiers now dead,
except the daughter, the youngest, me,
the last to be made by the Army-issued family,
the Army-issued not love that begot no peace, only war.
Only she remembers,
only I, only I
remember them all.
Editor’s Note: This poem says a great deal with only a few lines. Doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons often damages the innocent.