Micah Weeping, 1983
by Sydney Lea
Three decades ago, even the Vietnam War
Seemed gone for most of us. On Memorial Day,
Or Decoration, as our small town’s elders would say,
Fat Micah the plumber stood weeping while Mr. McClure’s
All-Student Band played taps. The flag was lowered
To halfway down the staff. I should have known something
By then. After all, one of my best college friends
Had been blown to pieces out there before we learned
Even where out there was — which got me going
Pretty early in the nonstop ’60s protest happening.
I’ll tell you what: we sure knew how to party.
No, we couldn’t, say, have found My Lai on a map,
So I’ll tell you something else: we were full of crap
In certain respects. We all turned 70 lately,
Those who remain, that is. I look at Me
In ’83, and cringe. I should have been
Tuned in by that year to more than I was as I spied
On Micah, Korea veteran, who stood and cried
On the common, the tears all lost within his chins.
I silently jeered him: He’s just a drunk, his gin’s
What’s bringing on the poor –me act. I envisioned
The poor slob busting his trousers with all that girth,
Seams blowing out of his army -issue shirt.
There was so much else in the world I could have imagined,
But no one had shot at me, I hadn’t seen anyone
Bleed to death, so I thought he just looked loopy
In that cap that seemed to be melting down his head
Like snow down a roof. From the bandstand somebody said
The usual boilerplate words about honor and duty.
I stood there that day myself, in love with mockery.
Micah would drink his pancreas away.
Gunfire hadn’t, but the booze knew how to maim him.
His grandson’s just back from Iraq, about the same.
Micah, I wish you could show up here today.
I might have other, better things to say,
If only, minus the irony, your name.