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Monday, May 30, 2011


by James Gage

Hanging clothes, Memorial Day.
Three hours since the procession
threaded through the depot
and now the summer screams
from the Little League field behind Blue Market.
Billy plays the line behind third base,
and I can hear his own hoarse mantra apart from the rest:
His hands are fast like mine,
and when he throws to first
his wristbands flash like battle flags.

When I finish pinning his clothes,
I’ll stand at the sidelines with other parents,
some cooler-fed, some quiet. Black flies
will be biting, but no mosquitoes--not yet.

At the parade this morning I couldn’t answer
Billy’s questions about combat. Instead I lied
about the beauty of medals and marching in formation,
about differences between places but not between people.
How to explain that tools become weapons, that fear becomes hate?
How to explain that I don’t know why, that I will die not knowing.

Billy showers after the game, then calls his mother.
Propped on the couch with a magazine open
I listen for a voice I can’t understand
although I still try.
Every few minutes I flip a new page
to let Billy believe I’m just reading.

James Gage is a freelance writer and editor who has published poems in Main Street Rag, Inkwell, Mountain Gazette, Powhatan Review, The Iconoclast, and Out of Line. A native Vermonter, he is increasingly interested in the Vermont Independence movement.