This poem was originally published in the River Heron Review.
Dorothy let me in
because I’d seen Afghanistan,
roamed the same territory
that killed her son – a roadside bomb
negating all his combat skills.
She offered coffee, pastry she’d made
for my visit. I accepted — God help anyone who wouldn’t.
I don’t remember the confection but I
remember childhood pictures, the smiling
second baseman, the high school football star,
and finally the estranged daughter-in-law,
the grandson she swore was an identical
twin; her hands wanting, needing to hold
more than the picture. She said she’d heard
from the soldier who was wounded in
the same blast, had talked with his mother,
that it helped – as had meeting
the vice president and his wife at the Gold
Star family gathering in Washington;
how they showed sincerity and kindness.
She wanted me to know about Dover,
how the whole base stopped work
the moment her son’s plane touched down;
how they handled the casket with dignity,
how the white gloves moved in slow motion,
ushered him sacramentally on his way
to his resting place, how clean those hands,
how careful not to jostle the traveler,
how bright against their combat uniforms,
against the flag that draped the casket.
And when they slid their brother into the hearse:
the white gloves, empty of duty, paused
for one frozen second, like doves of peace
almost ready for flight.