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Memorial Day

I’m standing on a sidewalk

 In Pleasantville, New York.  It’s 1959,
And I’m holding the American flag in my hand.

It’s really hot in the bright sunshine,
But I stand at attention, like a good soldier,
And salute my father, who smiles and waves
In this home of the free, this land of the brave.

Dad’s with the World War Two veterans.
They’re marching to the beat
Of the fire department band sweeping down the street:
The horns blare, the drums pound, the cymbals crash –
And my consciousness cracks like shattered glass.

The band’s overtaken by soaring boys on bikes.
Their spokes are woven with red white and blue crepe paper,
And the fluttering streamers on their handle bars
Make them look like firecrackers on wheels.

It’s so damn dazzling I have to look away,
Down at my feet, and I’m starting to sway
From the glare reflecting off the concrete.
I squint, and swoon, and look up at the sky
Where the light on the leaves of the sugar maple trees
Reflects off the chrome of the cars on the street.
I’m breathless, and dizzy, and overdone.
The one thing I know, this isn’t fun.

“Don’t you ever let that flag touch the ground!”
Snaps a mean old man, twisting my arm up so it hurts.

Disapproving town folk stare.
I feel their looks in the depths of my soul.
What else can a ten year old boy do but slink away
And chuck that fucking flag over the first privet hedge?

It was there and then that I knew that being
A good citizen was too much responsibility
For anyone as weak and as young as me.
To this day my favorite part of the Memorial Day Parade
Is the sound of the street cleaner
Pushing the star spangled flakes of confetti
Into his pan and pouring them,
With a soft sweet swoosh, into his pail.

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