John-Ward Leighton

NAMES CARVED IN STONE

Some etched in bronze,
the white rows of crosses
covering the foreground
and into the horizon.
All similar in death
as they were different in life:

Once living they marched
and sang rude soldiers songs
hardly aware of the freedoms
they were defending
both sides assured
of the support of the same God.
Lives that were ended
before they really began:
Their sacrifice
perhaps for a better life,
for justice,
for king and country,
for liberty,
something they were not to see,
dreams of a brighter future
for their families,
their clan,
their tribe,
their nation.

Their deaths have no purchase here
and a war to end wars
is but a futile dream
except to commemorate
that freedom has a cost
and it’s not about
battles won or lost.

We remember by wearing poppies
our badge of solidarity
to commiserate with those left behind.
Old men with medals shone and cap badge on
remember the young men,
their friends,
who became brothers
and then were gone
and the tears come easily now.

They cry the tears
of mothers and fathers
and sisters and brothers,
of friends and lovers,
of wives
and the bewildered children
who never knew their fathers.
The dead are the empty chair
at our table of life;
the open wounds that turn into scars
but never really heal.
So we put aside this day,
November eleventh,
to remember,
to honour,
to mourn and celebrate
that they were more
than just some
names carved in stone.