Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

A Poem for the Last American Soldier to Die in Iraq

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

A Poem for the Last American Soldier to Die in Iraq

Article excerpt

On the road to Marathon, Hwy. 90,

just outside of Alpine, Texas,

the gravestones stand chalk white

under the thunderheads of summer,

the afternoon rain in a slow roll across

the earth's wide amphitheater, from Fort Davis

to here, where I stand with a dumb expression

on my face, unsure of what to make of this,

a cemetery that holds no dead, only these markers

to remember them by, these nameless

anonymous stones.

When I was just a boy

I played the bugle at military funerals,

phrasing an elegy of taps for the dead

I didn't know, and in the winter chill, flinching

as rifles fired upward at nothing I could see,

or at God, maybe, each volley an announcement

of the fallen, I lifted the horn to my lips

and pressed the keys to begin learning

that cold and silver-plated connection

to grief.

To be moved by the sheer accretion

of loss, that's what this feels like, standing

in the scrub grass and the wind, gravestones

in their ranks and files before me. It's as if

we must make a conscious effort

to recognize our failure to remember

just who these people were.

And the last one,

the very last soldier to die in the Iraq War,

where is that soldier now? Maybe he, or she,

sat by me this morning and ate a breakfast

of scrambled eggs and chorizo at the diner

in Marfa. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.