Solemn Silent Soldiers Rest

by Roy E. Peterson, written May 22, 2020

Solemn, silent soldiers rest
Beneath the green earth’s sheltering breast.
The bodies that were once in pain
Became the ghost Corps of the slain.

Mothers and fathers teary-eyed
Remember the son or daughter who died.
They pray and stand beside the grave
Lamenting the sacrifice they gave.

Cemeteries across our land
Awaken to a marching band.
Salutes and speeches for the dead
Recounting glories of blood they shed.

Attention to the duty call
Taps is played for one and all.
Images dressed in spectral grey
Return again Memorial Day.

Roy E. Peterson is a writer and former U.S. military army intelligence officer who currently resides in Texas. 

 

 

The Stone of the Unknown, West Point Cemetery

by Joe Tessitore

Ye Grave,

Your word confronts me with a start
And makes its way into my heart,
Inscribes itself and will not leave,
So for this one I too now grieve.

Who gave his life and even more—
Is there a soul that can ignore
Unknown whose fame will surely last,
Above, beyond and unsurpassed!

Unknown for whom our flags unfurl!
Unknown for whom the bagpipes skirl!
Unknown, but by no means forgot—
This hero, all that I am not.

Unspoken but forever heard,
Can more be said in just one word?

 

Joe Tessitore is a retired New York City resident and poet.


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16 Responses

  1. Mike Bryant

    A proper and fitting salute to those who gave everything to guarantee our freedom. God bless the USA and God bless Texas.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Yes, Mike, God bless Texas, and also, as I am learning, don’t mess with Texas. I think that, in the end, we will both discover that neither one of us is as bad as the other thought he was.

      Reply
  2. C.B. Anderson

    Roy,

    I really appreciate the sentiment as, here in my safe house, the best I can do is wonder whether or not I’ll go to work on Monday. In high school I was asked to blow “Taps” on my trumpet at the cemetery on Memorial Day. I bowed out because I knew I would have blown it. So did my substitute, but at least he blew it.

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      I never thought you were bad, C.B. I like you and appreciate your constructive criticism. I just think you’re rude and condescending.

      Now JCM is another matter entirely.

      Reply
    • Roy E. Peterson

      “Taps” always seemed to me a fitting end to Memorial Day presentations, since the time I was a small boy and went out to the small town cemetery for the 21-gun salute.

      Reply
      • Joe Tessitore

        You would have loved my wife’s father’s funeral.

        He was a World War II veteran, a retired police officer and a former Knight of Columbus.
        All were there.
        A police honor guard escorted him in, the K of C took over in the Church, and the army honor guard played taps.
        Even the funeral director was impressed.

  3. J. C. MacKenzie

    Absent from this attempt is an argument in favor of Memorial Day, which is not provided by the merely descriptive text. Also absent, and glaringly so, in my humble opinion, is any allusion to the actual reason for which the soldiers died. In my mind, “ghost Corps” is awkward, if not a diminishing or even denial of the soldiers’ souls, which are not the same thing as ghosts, a word that evokes such things as “revenants” and the like. I do not personally believe that this attempt is commensurate or proportionate with its implied subject and would have liked to see a piece that was much more prepared, as opposed to simply dashed off. In general, this poem is the empty set in terms.

    I personally find the overall tone has a wee background of defeatism and would have preferred something triumphant. I would have liked to see some evocation of a glorious victory, or a soldier bayoneting a vile sarassin, or some such image.

    Finally, classic poetry”, unlike the present attempt, works always from tradition. In this instance, I sense a deficit of literary culture which leaves the piece, and therefore its audience, malnourished. Obviously, one can look to the great British poets of the First World War, but these are greatly surpassed by their French counterparts, including Dominique Bonnaud, Paul Fort, Félix Galipaux, and the like. Keep in mind also Edmond Rostand, in particular his “Jour des Morts” and “La Cathédrale.”

    A poet is only as rich as the culture he brings to his work.

    Reply
    • Roy E. Peterson

      J.C., “Ghost Corps” to me symbolizes a powerful force, not a diminished thought, but rather an augmented one, especially since on Memorial Day when we stand at the tomb of a loved one, we visualize the ones we have lost as being part of our defenders and protectors as part of a vast army over time. Oh, I have written poems that do more than bayonet the Sarassins, that include triumphal victories, and that glorify that which our military has accomplished throughout the years of the Republic. You may have an interest in reading my personal year of duty in Vietnam, “Fight of the Phoenix.” (Notice it is “fight” and not “flight,” as in the one made into a movie,) My purpose in writing this poem was more one of engendering sentimentality on this day. I am going to give you another one of my poems below that is a little stronger, but does not overwhelm in that sense:
      FRIENDS ON THE WALL
      By Roy E. Peterson

      To my friends on the wall and those older than me,
      We thank all the Vets for keeping us free.
      Remembrance, though fleeting, is etched on this wall.
      Above waves Old Glory. You answered the call.

      With honor you fought, and your life’s blood you gave.
      Your name’s on the wall, wherever is your grave.
      You know that for freedom there is no regret.
      You left us memories we never can forget.

      We know that your family still grieves for you.
      You went off to war for the red, white, and blue.
      You fought the good fight. You did not die in vain.
      On Memorial Day, we all share your pain.

      Although this one is general in nature, it was written for our hometown Wall of Heroes ceremony in West Texas.

      Reply
      • James A. Tweedie

        Roy, I commend you for your poem. They are the words of soldier writing within the culture of the military in a way that everyone who has served will understand and appreciate. Sometimes it is difficult for those outside that culture to “get it.” I have never served as a soldier but I have served among them enough to be able to add my voices to theirs and say, “Thank you.”

        Today we honor those who have died. Soon there will be a day to honor you and others who have earned the honor of being called a veteran.

        It is all about honor. And your poem hits home.

  4. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Thank you for your service, sir, and thank you for your poem.

    Reply
  5. Leo Zoutewelle

    Thank you, Joe, for that beautiful poem; I found myself re-reading it a number of times.

    Reply
  6. Mike Bryant

    Joe T,
    Susan and I were recently at a cemetery that contained the dead from a hurricane circa 1900. There was one grave that bore the simple inscription, “Known Only To God”. The images and feelings we felt were difficult to put into words. You have captured those feelings along with an amazing tribute to our war dead. Damn man… don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re not a poet.

    Reply
    • Joe Tessitore

      You bring me to the point of tears,Mike.
      Thank you very much.

      Reply

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