Christie Shary

Poetry - Saying Goodbye

Saying Goodbye

Thoughts Before the Vietnam Memorial October 21, 1992

Saying goodbye...
It's not always easy.
Sometimes it is soon,
Sometimes later.
Much later.

I stand before 'The Wall'
As a collage of the past
Flashes through my mind.
High school proms, a wedding cake,
A yellow Ford convertible,
Your smile's shadow.

Snow crunches beneath skis
On a clear, crisp winter day
As we slice through the powder,
Afterwards lying side by side,
Staring into the fire's golden embers,
Dreaming of 'tomorrows' that never come.

It took twenty-seven years to face
This cold, dark piece of reality,
A black granite mass
Weaving the memories of 58,000
Into the landscape.

The sun is warm,
But I feel cold
As I look into the eyes
Of the three bronzed sentries
At the entrance,
Guns flung over shoulderes,
Posed for 'eternal' combat.

Protective branches
Of orange-iced maples
Bend with the breeze,
Flutter out a sad melody.

Taps plays in the distance.
My camera trembles in my fingers
As I gaze beyond Lincoln,
And across the Potamac to Arlington.

Years of bottled-up grief overcomes me.
And my eyes fill with tears
As I flip through the salt-stained
Directory before me,
Searching for my past.
I discover it is held within
The boundaries of Panel 15E,
Line 114.
It is chiseled in stone forever.

Slowly I begin to walk the zigzag path,
Forcing myself to deal with its realities.
Yet each step I take feels like
I'm wearing lead shoes.

My bag of paper memories
Becomes heavy in my hand
As I weave through the throngs of retirees,
A final stop on their city tour.

I reach your name.
The end space near the bottom.
Perfect for etching.
Slowly, I kneel,
Try to hold back the tears,
But they drizzle down my face,
Splatter onto the pavement.

An older couple pauses to watch
As I take a red silk rose from my bag,
The words of a favorite song,
A photo of a happy family sharing
A Thanksgiving feast.

For a moment I clasp onto the
Photo of a young couple,
Smiling before a tiered wedding cake.
The old folks clasp each other's hands
More tightly and slowly walk away.

I feel an arm around my shoulder.
It is warm, comforting.
"Can I help?" says a soft voice.

A veteran dressed in the dull olive green
Of uniform bends beside me.
He holds a lead crayon and a white sheet
Of paper in his gnarled hand.

I smile through my tears,
Extend my hand.
He smiles back,
Squeezes my shoulder,
All the time staring at my offering.

"I'm sorry," he says.
But he turns his face so I cannot see
The moisture in his eyes.
"How old was he?"
The words "nineteen" form in my mouth,
But they won't come out.
They seem too tragic to utter.

I sit for while, reflect.
I see your face once more,
Still etched in my memory
In indelible ink,
Barely more than a boy.

A final image passes before me.
We are driving to the airport
Before you ship out.
Your jaw stiffens as you reach
To tuck your arm around me.
I put my head on your shoulder.

Saying goodbye...
Years don't distance the pain.
Yet they solidify my purpose.
It is still alive.
For I have other mountains to climb,
Other promises to keep.

Written on Veteran's Day, 1992