Letter: The loudest silence

To the editor:

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>

<em>Ruth Heuberger,

Great Barrington</em>


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