Inner Michael » Cry today, the Memorial

Cry today, the Memorial

On Memorial Day don’t forget those who gave their lives…

-for somebody who once wore it

I cry today the Memorial.
An empty wind
stirs chimes and hills,
echoes the flood plain
to Southeast Asia.

I smell a country,
taste a soldier’s fear
feel burning straw,
hear a twig,
a mother’s heart,
and a story break
on the six o’clock news.

Sculptured bronze
metal bodies
freeze time
and history
for a nation too easily
forgot the words
“never again.”

A national flag
snaps to attention,
salutes a lonely wind,
and unforgotten war,
a hypnotized people,
an uneasy belief
that a Persian Gulf
and fresh new war
can heal another.

It stings like yesterday
twenty-five years later.
A generation of peace
still missing in action,
the human race
still prisoners of war.

Flowers die,
war memories fade
for those who don’t touch it
but the green patch of cloth
placed on the ground
in the center of a Memorial Day wreath
speaks an authentic story,
tells a war.
A somebody once wore it.

(C) B. Kaufmann

* “Highground is the name of a war memorial built on a hill outside Neillsville, Wisconsin. It is a typical bronze casting of soldiers in war but at the back of the monument is a rifle turned upside down (a symbol for peace and “war no more”) and a large set of chimes that ring through valley below when the wind blows. Highground is said to be a place of great healing for veterans and those who have been touched by war.

“We want a world with war no more.’


Lonely, cold, deserted,
empty road goes nowhere
through empty fields
some farmer’s land
leased for doom,
the nearest house
ten miles away.

We stop the car
near frosty wheat fields
golden in summer,
Dakota glory—
barren now
like this feeling
in my belly.
Eerie silence
surrounds a chain-link fence,
narrow access lane
parts frozen earth,
leads to cold gray steel
fifty yards from sanity.

I wrap my courage round me,
pull tight my coat
as if I could keep out this cold
or the fear.
Tell my friend to wait,
must do this alone.

Take a step toward ominous,
this inconceivable object
from inconceivable minds.
There is nothing human here,
only icy wind that shrieks
monuments to failure.

Chain-link security,
barbed wire madness,
locks a dome-like structure,
cold-steel-nightmare under ground,
one of countless others
poised to kill half a planet—
people without faces,
humans without names.

I try to rein an insane mind
that begins to wander
toward the unthinkable.
Imagination not in check
replays archival footage,
rears a metal monster
from this darkened hole
that must end close to hell.

An unfamiliar feeling
shakes my body violent
not from cold
or Dakota winters.
My hand reaches toward the sky
as if one hand could stop it
pull it back to earth
or stifle the rising scream.

(C) B. Kaufmann

Poems reprinted from Barbara’s chapbook “We’re All In This Together”


  1. Susan Trout said . . .

    Your poems are deeply moving. Thank you. Thank you for choosing to honor Michael this Memorial Day.
    The video clip of him is so wonderful. Naturally I cried.

    My heart is exposed and aching today. I fight that relentless question that rises up to steal my joy–“Why’d you have to go and leave our world so cold?”

    Blessings to you, Rev. Barbara!

    Posted May 30, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Permalink
  2. Kim said . . .

    Thank you so very much for your post today honoring the veterans and also Michael. I’ve never seen the video footage when he visited the army base in Japan. How wonderful it is to see him there to honor the men and women who serve and how they responded to him as well. Also, for a solder to be promoted with Michael as part of the ceremony; what can one say to that? I’m sure that is one memory that will always stay in the solder’s heart. Your poems just reach down into the heart and pull down on the strings to open the heart wide. I was at the VA hospital yesterday to volunteer for a Memorial Day celebration and while I was there, I had the opportunity to see and spend time with some people who served our country, but now are feeling the repercussions of their experience in one way or another. So when I read your words, they have a deeper meaning. I was so glad to see Michael’s visit to the base and it appears he very much enjoyed it. We must not forget those who served our country and protect our freedoms. I know you haven’t, Michael didn’t and I haven’t forgotten. I know many others haven’t either. Thank you again.

    Posted May 31, 2011 at 2:51 am | Permalink
  3. Joyce said . . .

    Rev. Barbara,
    Thank you so much for this wonderful remembrance of Michael and all of those who sacrifice and serve our country in so many different ways. I think we all share a common desire and wish for peace and harmony throughout this world but there are so many forces that go against that goal. Your poetry is very moving and says so much about our hopes and our fears. Michael certainly understood and greatly appreciated the bravery and sacrifice that is made every day by those in the military who allow us to be safe and live free until that day when no military is necessary. Unfortunately that day may not come in our lifetime but we can certainly continue Michael’s mission, as his “Army of Love” to heal the world of so much hatred through understanding and love on a daily basis in our own small ways.

    The video of Michael’s visit to the military base in Japan is wonderful. Once again we see this amazing, humble selfless, generous man who cared so much about all of humanity and the world. It wasn’t about any political agenda, media attention, or anything, other than LOVE and respect! Michael will never stop inspiring me!

    I also have to thank you for your kind words in regards to the amazing good fortune I had to have my name pulled from the Fedora to win that gorgeous artwork from Amy Grace. I am still in shock that I actually won. I appreciate you sharing the link to my Voices Education Project story. I am so thankful to Amy and you for your inspiring websites!

    Posted June 2, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Permalink
  4. karen said . . .

    I’ve lived near a Missile Silo all of my life. Those who live here understand what they represent, the death they could create and the lives they could save and the casualties of war. They bring back memories from younger days and news reports of the Vietnam War on black and white televisions. Memories of another lifetime. Fears of another lifetime.
    When I was my grandchild’s age, I knew what a missile silo was and what it was for. He knows nothing of this, he is free of the fear they created in the whispers of parents when children were supposed to be asleep. Many have died and continue to die for the idea of freedom. Thank you for the poem. I’m sure Michael’s thoughts would mirror your words.

    Posted June 4, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Permalink
  5. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    Karen, Your comment is a poem. Namaste`~B

    Posted June 4, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

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