I wrote a poem on Memorial Day 1996 while thinking of the Vietnam vets that I know. Although I had no family who fought over there, I have come to know many vets over the past couple of years and respect and love them. I wrote this poem while thinking about how much I have learned about them and their experiences and how much I still want to understand.

The Name Upon the Wall

On the morning of a clouded day, a woman went to see

The names engraved upon a wall that bore them solemnly

With arms held tight against her chest to fight the growing chill

She read the names of lives cut short, and dreams left unfulfilled

Ahead of her she saw a man with weathered haunted face

Who sat upon his chair of wheels, that brought him to this place

She watched him as with withered hand he tried to touch a name

But struggle as he might, the strength he needed never came

She walked to him and slowly kneeled, and looked into his eyes

Said, "Sir, I'll help you touch the name that you have recognized."

With shaking voice he answered her, a gruffness to his tone

"I need no help, if it takes all day I'll touch this wall alone.

My limbs may be of little use, but for all that I may lack

So far from home this boy's life ceased, at least I made it back.

I owe him now to find the strength to touch this wall alone

To honor my friend's memory, and how briefly his light shone."

She gathered her words carefully as she gazed upon his face

"We all have different reasons, Sir, for coming to this place.

I was just a little girl when you were over there

And could never hope to understand the pain that you still bear.

But those of us who stayed behind were touched in our own way

We bear the scars of love ones lost in places far away.

Our brothers, fathers, sisters who returned not quite the same

We watched with helpless agony, and wished to ease their pain.

We none of us were left untouched by all that you went through

And you'd be helping me, Sir, by letting me help you."

He nodded slightly - wordlessly - and offered her his hand

Then woman, weary soldier, little girl, and lost young man

Whispering together, "Buddy, this is from us all"

Reached out, hand in hand, and touched the name upon the wall.


Tracy Santany

copyright © 1997 by Tracy Santany, all rights reserved

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