The Man who Remembers

February 23, 2008
I came upon a rare man,
A dieing breed of man;
A man who remembers.
He was passing his fingers over an etched marble wall.
And I saw the memories
Flash in his eyes
That each of the names bore.
At one his hand paused,
And a tear rolled down his cheek.
He closed his eyes,
But I know not what he saw,
I know not the vision before him.
He tried to forget it
By opening his eyes,
But he could not;
He could not forget what he had seen;
He could not put out of mind
The friendship and struggle,
The great struggle for civilization.

The place of honor was now empty,
The water flowing the only sound.
The rushed tourists of the cities all gone,
Say one: myself; of the city,
Where all passion dies.
My mind had fallen silent
Since I saw him first.
He was alone, but not lonely,
For his memories were his companions,
Yet still alone,
For so few could understand him,
So few knew the source
Of his quite sorrow,
So few could comprehend
The path which he had followed,
The foes and demons of man he fought.

Now he looks round,
And sees me
And smiles at a thought I instilled,
Understanding, perceiving.
Hello and hello
Did you fight in this monument’s war?
Yes, a very long time ago,
A very long time.
I am a journalist.
Are you? I used to do some of that.
Can you spare a moment?
I am writing something about this wall.
I’d be delighted to, he said.

The late evening became later
As I asked and he answered,
As I lost my profession’s purpose,
And found myself in another time,
A time of right and wrong,
Of black and white,
Of clear duty, clear purpose.

After a duration; long, yet length unknown,
Came the man’s human companion,
And said softly
I knew I’d find you here,
With as much love, I envision,
She did the very first time
She found him inside his mind,
All those many years ago.

The parting salutations;
He had a faith in me, I noticed,
Although I knew not why.

Then they were gone, arm-in-arm,
Past the ever-flowing fountain.
Within sight he stopped
And with trembling hand and chin,
Saluted Old Glory
As the wind gave it life.
But I had a suspicion he was saluting
And honoring much,
Much more than cloth.
Perhaps that cloth, so neglected,
Scorned and hated now,
Did stand for something more.
He thought so, or knew so.
For knowledge from experience
Is the purest kind of knowledge,
The type that understanding is kin to.

I then lost all motivation to write,
I had no will to speak the unspeakable,
To describe the indescribable,
Or reduce the irreducible.

As the last fires in the bedazzled east died
They left my sight,
And he faded into the misty darkness
Outside the monument’s walls,
Back to where he had come,
Back to the ages past.

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