If you scrolled through Facebook today, as I did, you saw flags and military images and veterans’ pictures galore. I’m glad so many people remember and honor them for their sacrifices. Two years ago, our son came home, after spending almost five years in the Marines, on the day before Veterans’ Day. I was so grateful, so relieved. In anticipation, we lined the driveway with flags and waited eagerly for the sound of his motorcycle.

Many mothers have not had that privilege and as I was looking at the pictures today, my thoughts turned toward all of the moms who’ve had to say good-bye to their sons going off to serve. My heart silently cried for those for whom the good-byes were permanent. One never knows. I wrote the following poem when our son was still in training and his future uncertain.

No Strings Attached

You left your mark, or so they say,

the black flapping shred of flimsy kite

(or flag? Who can tell now?)  caught,

entangled in the tip of a tall pine,

out of reach.

I guess they still remembered you,

those witnesses of your kite-flying, free-spirited ways.

One of them spoke to me, saw the resemblance (or maybe the nametag).

“Do you have a son who went here?”

“Why, yes,” I smiled, curious, surprised.

“I was in his class…Part of his kite’s still in the tree… I was there that day.”

I’ll never know just where your footsteps wandered here.

But I imagine myself following the path

where you yourself planted your ragged, well-worn,

black and white Converse All-Stars.

Or where you rolled along, skateboard swerving in and out,

skittering pebbles between sidewalk cracks.

That it still hangs suspended, memorializing

Those kite-flying,

laughter-lifting,

thought-provoking,

friendship-finding days –

It is a miracle saved.

So I walk beneath the hallowed tree and ponder,

imagine the incongruity of a switched allegiance

to another kite.

Not the black and white Jolly Roger of your college days,

but the red, white and blue that commands your attention

as your eyes shoot straight ahead and you

train to defend your right

to fly a kite,

a remnant of your formation here in freedom.

I look up again. Eyes blurry, straining to see

black tattered fabric, settled in the crux of a tree branch,

resigned, unbending in the breeze.

I feel a snap in my heart,

Like a string too taut to stay grounded.

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4 thoughts on “On Letting Go

  1. Denise,
    I do not know what it is like having a son in the military, but your poem helps me get closer to understanding and awe, along with grief and respect. I believe millions of military moms would value reading those words – their precision like a light in the darkness.

    1. Thanks for joining me here, Katie. Even though your sons are not in the military, I’m sure you know what it is like to have moments of awareness when you realize that those strings that bound you to your children are being loosened and/or cut. It’s what we mothers signed up for, I guess.

  2. Denise — this is beautiful. I agree with Katie above that your words help us non-military moms peek into the hearts of mothers who have felt that snap in their hearts. Love the powerful images and emotion.

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