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Saturday, May 26, 2012


by Tom Karlson

This April 1865 photo shows the graves of Union soldiers who died at the Race Course prison camp in Charleston, which would later become Hampton Park. On May 1 of that year, former slaves gave the fallen a daylong funeral. (Library of Congress Image)

they sang and prayed,
naming that day in May,
257 Union men captured, starved
mass-graved, bodies twisted,
joined at hip arm and head, this
Charleston South Carolina
Babi Yar Confederate style burial
re-interred with honor and memory
by 10,000 Freedmen
in 1865 that first day of mourning
the first Memorial Day

today we are at Jones beach
it is Memorial Day
we are fifty souls
remembering our dead, the dead
hundreds of Long Islanders
thousands of North Americans
a million Iraqis and Afghanis

families stroll past
some look, others visionless
all have come to eat, drink,
and salute that insatiable war-beast
they watch the Blue Angels
spin, flip, dive, and swoop,
aging chicken hawks
beg boys and girls to sign up for
the navy, the marines, the air force

I remember other Memorial Days
the Turkish flotilla
bringing aid to Gaza
the Israeli attack,
nine dead

steelworkers strike Little Steel,
families march
police-guards-scabs open fire
ten dead
thirty shot
one hundred clubbed

let us remember our Memorial Days

Tom Karlson is founder of Poets for Peace, Long Island, NY.