Neal Dachstadter


~ I ~

The Hornbeck Elm
Had lost its helm:
Some vandals were to blame.

‘Los running by,
He came to spy
The trunk cut down in shame.

“O yes,” I said,
“Will saw it dead.
Who wrought this deed so lame?”

“We shall replace
One in its space,”
Alumnus Len proclaimed.

Mary Catherine cried
And David sighed.
Police – they found no blame.

Till Sarah’s sight:
The Elm alight,
Her trunk was all aflame.

‘Twas glowing green,
Her torch did gleam,
Rob’s message still the same.

“Remember me?
Beyond the sea?
How to Iraq I came?

Then home I flew
To see the crew…
Then fell, but kept my name?

And when I died,
My brethren cried
(I did not seek this fame…

Yet duty called
Me to the hall
Of patriot all the same).”

~ II ~

“Still, sap does flow
Beneath that blow
A vandal did inflict.

You will not die again
But live,
To spite that dreadful nick.

And thus I say
These words this day,
(with weight my voice is thick)

Elm of my rank,
Your wise root sank
Far down into the quick.

The quick is life,
Both joy and strife.
Lo, good and bad afflict.”

~ III ~

“Go Omicron,
Still carry on
Alive, with far more kick.

O be not glum,
O still my chum,
We’ve gotten past that sigh.

When tempted sore
To mind the score
As lost, or simply cry,

Then look for me,
Stand up and see
That twinkle in the eye

Of Freshmen green,
In Rush unseen:
Don’t dare lay down and die.

Be quick to greet
The man you’ll meet.
My bro shall be that guy!

A comrade Green?
Perhaps Marine?
Who guards land, sea and sky?

Or just a man
Who’ll bridge the span
Of Deke, so broad and high?

As broad and high as any Elm,
As limited – stout as any helm
(don’t let the vandals nigh).

Thus life is full
Of push and pull,
The struggle waxes high.

When low you sink,
Pray stop, and think
Of me, and where I lie.

Until I rise
Look toward the skies;
Redemption draweth nigh.”

Author’s Note: A fraternity brother, Lt. Rob Hornbeck died in military service (Iraq) several years ago. An Elm was planted in the yard of Michigan DKE, Omicron Chapter, in memory. Though vandals tried to kill the tree, the broken trunk sprouted the next spring.