Letter: The loudest silence
This poem, begun on a visit to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., is dedicated to Ilana, a young woman I was introduced to several years ago who was 7 years old when her father, voluntarily replacing another soldier, was killed in combat a week before his release from the Army. Among her precious memories — her father taught Ilana to use his woodworking tools, which she does, to this day.
<em>Vietnam Memorial — Washington, D.C.
Earthbound, dignified by name
Families bound by a lifetime of pain
We know no one who fell
Or knew the hell of Vietnam but watch
The stillness of 57,000 names scrolled in single file
Across the polished black slabs
Reflecting the respectful thoughtful grieving living.
We follow a path as wide as one or more tall men
Neat square paving
Stones evenly paced
And measured echo in unison.
Footfall and mournful march of soldiers.
Coming from each side, two equal lines of black smooth granite
Reach a knifesharp peak two men high.
Coming from each side, two long equal lines of 57,000 names dug into smooth black granite
Forever clenched between mound and ground.
The loudest silence I have ever heard.</em>
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