Memorial Day 2021

Memorial Day 2021

The brown splash and swirl in the glass.
I set down the bottle beside it,
the cork forced back in place. Any
smoky, sweet aromatic notes
that might escape would be wasted
on me, with tree pollen clogging
my sinuses.  And if my eyes
are puffy and tearing, blame it
on that, too.  But I snuck away
from friends who only think of this
as a long holiday weekend
before summer. 

                      For you and me,
it goes back to Quang Tri and a wet
mortar round that fell short of the LZ,
killed you and left me with a deadness
in the right ear that I thought had been blown off.
Blood on my hand when I reached for it,
mistakenly confirmed that fear
and what else I might have lost
in that moment.  I don’t know that
we’d have remained friends, these 52 years
since.  But I thought of you today,
as friends who are vaccinated gather
for a Memorial Day barbeque.

And this drink, I will drink alone,
throw it back all at once,
sudden as we were parted.  

Richar Levine’s books include Selected Poems, The Cadence of Mercy, and A Tide of a Hundred Mountains. His website is

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