Memorial Day

They could not wish for a more perfect day: eighty degrees
and the sky so blue they can’t look at it for fear of opening
themselves to the past—a childhood in the woods
or falling in love the first time, all of this in flood surge.
The smell of basted steaks brings back the solidity of purpose.
The grandmother naps in her sunhat, a tender breeze on her arms.
A little boy turns the crank of the ice cream maker
and a badminton game is in full heat, the players imagining
themselves professional, getting testy and competitive
until the cold beer quiets them. There’s an off-color joke
(it’s allowed as long as there’s nothing as specific as condoms)
and the wives gossip about the queer scoutmaster,
or the man down the street who, caught in a cathouse, lost his job.
It’s only old Herman sitting a few yards off in the recliner
who looks beyond them into a burning village where a marine
drags a wounded man by his heels behind a tank for cover
and the tank backs up and runs over them both.
Herman, come get some potato salad. Herman would you like
another beer? Put on your hat so you don’t get those cancers.
Stop moving your mouth like that —who are you talking to?
He gets up and limps to the table and loads up his plate.
Then goes back to his chair where he will sit, alone, and those
pushed beyond trying will not come to his side and listen.

Doug Anderson was a Navy Corpsman in a Marine rifle company in 1967. He is widely published and has received numerous awards and fellowships. His book The Moon Reflected Fire won the Kate Tufts Discovering Award and Blues for Unemployed Secret Police a grant from the Eric Matthieu King Fund of the Academy of American Poets. His most recent book of poems is Horse Medicine, published by Barrow Street Books. His next book, Undress, She Said, will be published by Four Way Books in 2022. Visit his website. Email: