“Paratrooper” by Sean Barnett

U.S. Memorial Day Special:
The best of contemporary war poetry.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Paratrooper”

Sean Barnett

Deteriorating cartilage,
torn meniscus,
bruising of the femur.

Arthritic diagnosis,
disabling infusion
of shrapnel, peppered
by an explosion.

Then, my parachute’s
canopy partially inverted,
slamming me to
the weakened joint.

Early morning clicks,
occasional popping midday,
and an aching in the evening
only endured by way of
abusive substance.

And that’s the good knee.

“Grass” by Carl Sandburg

U.S. Memorial Day Special:
This poem is affecting and quiet. (Grass is abiding; battle is momentary.) This poem is recognized and anthologized. (Train riders are workaday, everyday, oblivious, all of us.) This poem feels to be one of the immortal poems that should live long beyond our current civilization. I thought I had a handle on it, but it is too complex. Is it a melancholic, uplifting poem about healing? Is it a bitter, rebuking poem about forgetting? The imagery of the grass seems serene, is set in contrast to the implied uproar of battle. The imagery of train riders has been archaic and therefore exotic for already fifty years, but continues to work, and should continue to continue to work. The five battles named are and should ever remain prominent in history, even when that history is far more distant and exotic than it already is today; in two thousand years and in ten thousand years, the slaughter of the battles should still be as comprehendible. Can any work of art imbue beauty to battle? This poem achieves something great… but what is that, exactly?
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Grass”

Carl Sandburg

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo,
Shovel them under and let me work–
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.

“Ashes of Soldiers” by Walt Whitman

U.S. Memorial Day Special:
Whitman’s love is unbearable.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Ashes of Soldiers”

Walt Whitman

Ashes of soldiers South or North,
As I muse retrospective murmuring a chant in thought,
The war resumes, again to my sense your shapes,
And again the advance of the armies.

Noiseless as mists and vapors,
From their graves in the trenches ascending,
From cemeteries all through Virginia and Tennessee,
From every point of the compass out of the countless graves,
In wafted clouds, in myriads large, or squads of twos or threes or
single ones they come,
And silently gather round me. Continue reading