Two Memorial Day Poems

To Forget a War

It’s easy to forget a war
made of paper and screens, a war
you can fold and tuck under an arm
when you’ve arrived at your stop,

the doors closing behind you
as you walk away; a war that won’t
bleed into your coffee or dreams,
or on your colleagues in a meeting;

a war that won’t rival all other
intimacies in your life, so you
have to introduce it to your wife
and your children; a war that will never

have to offer you its left hand to shake,
because its right one is only a sleeve.

The Southern Cross

There are so many ways to die in war.
You can be sniped out of your life, walking
a trail, or trip a string that holds a grenade
waiting for yours or anyone’s last step.
And in that at-any-moment tension,
you learn to breathe while holding your breath.

The night we heard that Martin Luther King
had been shot, I was on perimeter
watch, in Phu Bai, alert to an enemy
we knew surrounded us. The story
said he was outside the Lorraine Motel,
in Memphis. Under Vietnam’s starry
sky and Southern Cross, I wondered.

Richard Levine, a retired NYC teacher, is the author of Now in Contest, Selected Poems, Contiguous States, and five chapbooks. An Advisory Editor of, he is the recipient of the 2021 Connecticut Poetry Society Award, and was co-editor of “Invasion of Ukraine 2022: Poems.” A Vietnam veteran, his review “The Spoils of War” appears in the current issue of American Book Review. See more of his work here.