American soldiers dead, their history forgotten except by those who knew and loved them, their roots in pride and patriotism, in family, as sons and daughters, siblings and spouses.
Another Memorial Day, a day to memorialize.
And here we meet at a Memorial to memory, neither antiwar memorial nor peace, neither pride nor shame, neither beauty nor duty, but merely a place of cleansing remembrance.
Gerrie, 2016. Matthew Q.
Another Memorial Day, like a star in the universe.
One star among many, a dim light amongst the dark, too dim to be seen in Washington, DC, too dim to be seen in Baghdad or Kabul, way too dim to be seen in Syria, way way too dim for ISIL.
H. McDavitt, 2016. Louis F.
Cardin, 2016. Charles H.
Keating IV, 2016. David A.
Another Memorial Day, a candle in the night. Our leaders see it as an enemy in search of us, our Congress sees it as mirage, ghostly unreal, our generals see it as a threat, a fatal weakness, most Americans do not see it at all, myopic, blind.
McQuagge, 2016, age 19.
Another Memorial Day, another name, one more but not the last in 2016, only last until another day, another night, another candle shining light on an entire Hill of names, thousands among
I cannot name —
tens of thousands of Afghan civilians dead, millions of Iraqi civilians dead, children, children, children dead, children I do not know, children I will never know, children just like mine,
cannot name a single one.
Yet a desert star shining brightly in their desert night also shines on us and our sun shines down on them, both to light the Way from the Cradle to our Hill, from a beginning to an end, which our Hill must be
if we are
ever to know their names, for they are here. Our soldiers are here. On our Hill. Today. Memorial Day. Memories. Remember them Stars in the universe. Candles in the night. Sunlight. I do not know their names, but I know ours, and ours on Memorial Day the same as theirs — say one, say all.
Read at the Crosses of Lafayette, Memorial Day, 2014
Torn Between Anger and Grief
I am a Veteran.
I am at a vigil honoring my fellow Veterans who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I am at the Crosses of Lafayette in Lafayette, California —
my Crosses of Lafayette, your Crosses of Lafayette, their Crosses of Lafayette,
and I am torn between anger and grief.
I am at a Memorial Day vigil at the Crosses of Lafayette in Lafayette, California, my seventh Memorial Day vigil at the Crosses of Lafayette in Lafayette, California, and I am torn between anger and grief.
After seven years I finally ask myself: What is the meaning of vigil? I search and research and find references to watchfulness, to quiet contemplation, to sadness, to prayer, but I find no references to anger.
Ater seven years I finally ask myself: What is the meaning of memorial? I search and research and find references to honoring the dead, to remembering the dead, to grieving for the dead, but I find no references to anger.
And I am grieving — Yes! — as one should grieve at a vigil, but why is it that I am so angry?
I find no references to 3,000 dead Americans on 9/11. I find no references to 7,000 dead Americans in retaliation for those 3,000 dead Americans. I find no references to hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis and dead Afghans. I find no references to little children machine-gunned while out gathering firewood. I find no references to droned wedding parties or destroyed families or unspeakable violence.
I find no references to “Why”, I find no references to “Who”, but I know why and I know who, and that is the source of my anger; I know why and I know who, and that is the source of my grief.
Anger and grief, why and who, the living and the dead. Who is on this Hill? Let us bow our heads and grieve. Why are they here? Let us raise our heads in anger. Who are the living? Who are the dead? Who am I, torn between anger and grief, not knowing what to do, not knowing how to feel, fists clenched, tears in my eyes?
Perhaps anger and grief are symbiotic, anger necessary to start a war, grief necessary to understand a war, both together necessary to end a war, to build a peace, to memorialize our family on this Hill, to be with them tonight in a vigil symbolizing our shared humanity.
Read at the Crosses of Lafayette, Veterans Day, 2013
Once there was Armistice Day to commemorate the end of war. Now there is Veterans Day to mourn the veterans who have served and died in war after war after war, and who will continue to serve and die in war after war after war.
Look at our Hill - These are the Americans who died in only two of our wars. Imagine them standing here with us. Imagine those without arms and legs standing here with us. Imagine all of the veterans of all of our wars standing here with us, standing here mourning the years and years of war.
Imagine instead all of us and all of them standing here celebrating years and years of Peace.
Look at yourselves. Look at me. Look at those who worked on this Hill. We nailed wood into Crosses, we carved out Stars of David, we sculpted Crescents, we tried to include on our Hill every religion, every ethnicity, every civilized point of view that exists in America - but we did not include the dead Iraqis, we did not include the dead Afghans.
We must beg their forgiveness. We must ask that they join us. We must beg the forgiveness of the innocents we kill with drones, and ask that they also join us. We must beg the forgiveness of those we will kill in future – the generations of families, the armies of their friends, those who might be our friends, too – We must ask them all to join us, for only together can we
We have run out of space on our Hill to mark when war feasts next on a kill, we have run out of room in our hearts to beat as each murdered friend departs.
We must do something! To truly honor the dead that tonight you see, we must end the wars and set them free – not meeting after meeting after meeting for naught while loved ones of ours die as they fought, not writing a poem to be read to the choir, not listening to poems, then home, hearth, and fire. No. Doing is action that we must decide to actually do if ever we wish to rid the red tide of blood from our shores – never to
saving the lives of those next to die. Oh, end these wars together we cry, for then, only then, will ever we
Armistice Day Crosses of Lafayette,
Veterans' Day, 2012
Please come a-waltzing Matilda with me...
And on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month
a group of men in suits finally decide to end the war
to end all wars, and the church bells ring 11 times,
and the men and women on this Hill
will never go a-waltzing Matilda again,
for it was not World War I but World War Lost
not World War II but World War Lost Again.
It was freezing dead in North Korea,
the burning napalm dead of Nam.
It was willie pete Falujah,
Each day a cross goes up, a marker, white,
a Star of David, Muslim Crescent, Wheel
of Life, all showing death and deathly quiet
so the dead can hear the bells the living
either cannot hear or do not understand.
I wish a poem to you who roam this Hill at night,
you who hear the bells, I wish a waltz for you.
I wish a melody in harmony with my apology,
instead of poetry, a song to say I'm sorry,
a man who wasted most his life instead of saving
yours, a man who knows there's things much worse
than dying, there's things much worse than dead.
The worst is to forget the dead, to forget you live
upon this Hill, to forget you once could dance.
If I do that, if we, you should never us forgive,
for if I do that, if we, you disappear from history.
And the band plays Waltzing Matilda,
and old men like me get tears in our eyes,
but as year follows year, we all disappear
into silence or fear as we listen to lies
while we wait at the foot of our bier
singing silently songs of a chance
to see you and Matilda in dance.
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
Fred Norman 56 lines
7986 Driftwood Way
Pleasanton, CA 94588
(925) 462-7495 email@example.com
Memorial Day 2012
Once the earth was flat,
monsters made it round,
killed every single human found,
put them in the ground one on top the other
to form the Himalaya,
children only for the Alps,
injuns for the High Sierra,
Blacks the Blue Ridge beauty of the east,
Washington, DC, the belly of a beast
that belches body bags of glory
that we in Lafayette exchange
for hoary markers to be planted
as a Hill of Crosses, sowed as seeds
of sorrow, grown as memories tomorrow,
reminding those who kill to cease
destroying those who wish for peace.
This Hill has not always been here –
When monsters first arrived on our eastern shore,
when they claimed the land for themselves and more,
when good Indian became dead Indian genocide,
we did not cover this Hill with one million eagle feathers;
instead, we watched complacently as they died.
When they began the American custom of enslaving
every black-skinned person they could capture or buy
– not just a Constitutional 3/5 of every man or boy
but 100% of every male, all of every female, joy
every family should know, every beautiful son
a mother might love, every daughter, none
who would escape the whip, the noose, the gun –
when they began the American custom of slavery,
this Hill was not a terminal of Underground Bravery.
When they rounded up our Japanese-American brethren
this Hill was not covered with katakana apologies.
When they bombed the innocent of Guatemala,
the people of Panama, the children of Nicaragua,
the women of El Salvador, this Hill spoke no Spanish.
When they bombed the schools of Grenada, Operation
Urgent Fury, there was no urgent fury on this Hill.
When they killed 60,000 Americans in Viet Nam,
there were no 60,000 Crosses on this Hill.
The Land of Peace and Freedom has bombed
twenty-five different countries since WWII,
almost none of whom now have freedom,
almost none of whom now have peace.
We could end these wars, we standing here tonight,
if only we would merely do tomorrow what is right,
if only we would stand where this Hill now stands
inside our minds and at every opportunity shout
out a Cross of Lafayette at those who cannot see
the meaning of our Hill for those who gave their lives
believing it would bring us peace and make us free.
This Hill –
No, it wasn't always here for Peace,
it wasn't always here for you and me,
but it is here now, and so are we.
One day a little girl in class approached her teacher
and whispered as if a secret, “Teacher, what was war?”
Her teacher sighed, replied, “I will tell to you
a fairy tale, but I must warn you first that it is not
a tale you will understand; it is a tale for adults -
they are the question, you are the answer – Once...”
She said, once upon a time...
there was a country that was always at war
– every hour of every day of every year –
it glorified war and ignored those who died,
it created its enemies and slaughtered and lied,
it tortured and murdered and butchered and cried
to the world of security needs, of freedom and peace
that hid well the greed that makes profits increase.
Fiction and fantasy, of course, but imagine it if you can,
and imagine also the inhabitants of that fictional land,
those who laughed and partied and were warm and well fed,
who married their sweethearts and had children who led
lives of the free in homes of the brave filled with twitters
and tweets and occasional bleats of happy talk jitters,
the entire family all playing the roles of fairy tale critters,
a real make-believe land in which nobody ever, never
once in any single day, made any effort to end the wars
that made their country the country that was always at war.
Imagine also the enemy, those who were bombed
and droned, dragged into the streets and shot, those
whose families were destroyed, the sons who watched
their fathers killed, the daughters who saw their mothers
violated, the parents who sank to the ground as their
children's lives soaked the soil on which they kneeled,
those who would forever be the enemy of the country
that was always at war, those who would forever hate
the country that was always at war, and hate its people.
And so the world split apart: one half bathed in happy
lies, one half drenched in blood; both halves often one,
indistinguishable to the dead, indifferent to the maimed,
one gigantic world of misery, of IED’s, of arms and legs,
coffins and funerals, of men in tears, of women in black,
of gold stars, blue stars, stars and stripes, of black and red,
the colors of the anarchist, of green and bands of white,
the hated and the hate, the feared and the fear, the horror.
She said, once upon a time...
or words to that effect, adult words for adult ears,
and the child said, “Teacher, I do not understand,”
and the teacher said, “I know and I am pleased. I
shall take you to a hill that reflects the sun by day
and glows at night in moonlight. It is always shining.
It is alive. On it 6,000 stars are twinkling, 6,000
memories, 6,000 reasons that the wars you do not
understand are wars that we shall never have again,
for in this fairy tale, one day the people woke,
the people spoke, and the country that had always
been at war was now at peace, and the enemy, not
necessarily friend, was no longer enemy, and little
children did not understand, and the world rejoiced,”
to which the child begged, “Take me to this hill.
I wish to walk among the stars and live with them
Once upon a time – a teacher's vow.
I say, the time is now.
In this terrible ninth year of terrorist dread, on its haunting ninth Veterans Day
of the Dead, the day brings me back to the year
I was nine, the year I first learned of our
evil and mine — of the thousands by ten of Japanese
men, of the thousands by ten of their
women, of the thousands and more of the
children back then when the sun’s promise
lied to Hiroshima’s fears, Nagasaki’s
tears — in two days of war, 200,000 died.
Nine years after I was nine,
I joined the Marines and learned to kill, and then I joined the Air Force of
free will and focused on my target drill,
— O, Vladivostok, Russia — a city of another 200,000 men and robust Russian women and pink-cheeked Russian children and many Russian sailors then who would die when I was told to kill them.
I think now of my grandson who is nine as hundreds of thousands of Iraqis
die, as tens of thousands of Afghans
die, as 5,275 Americans die.
And I think now of my grandson’s birth.
I held him in my hands, so light,
I touched his hair, so soft,
I touched his nose, so smooth,
I see him now as I saw him then, so innocent, and I am so weak with fear that he may be as I had been.
Nine years from now he will be eighteen, a time to choose, but what do
Will he choose to live a life of peace and pray,
or will a Cross of Lafayette be his
Will he teach his son to lock and load and kill,
or will another father’s son send him
to this hill as punishment for moral lessons
Can he see the Crosses on the Hill?
Will he know why they are there?
We gather once again at this Hill of Shining Crosses.
It’s Veterans’ Day, two thousand ten, Afghanistan-Iraq, five thousand eight
Five thousand eight hundred dead. What on earth is wrong with us?
Each day, every hour of every week and month and year, we play a counting game, a tally of
immorality, of us:
We count our dead, we honor those we kill — they die, we grieve, we cry, then we go home
to eat and sleep, to resume our lives while over
there the newly dead resume their cries, sink into
silence, remain forever silent, the sounds of death the
only sounds they hear.
What on earth is wrong with us?
We begin the count on Veterans’ Day, two thousand one —
Afghanistan, a soldier’s life is done, inhumanity has won, the first of all these dead
replacing dreams with dread.
Then next year’s Veterans’ Day, two thousand two —
Afghanistan, the count is sixty dead, but there are plans to increase this by multiples of
ten, by powers of ten if necessary, mere multiples of
shame not shame enough for those who play to win and
profit by the counting game.
What on earth is wrong with us?
Continue with the count. Multiply by ten:
Veterans’ Day, two thousand three —
Iraq-Afghanistan, six hundred dead, sixty dead times ten, six hundred
What on earth is wrong with us?
Again and again we count, year after year:
Veterans’ Day, two thousand four — Iraq-Afghanistan, one thousand five
hundred dead. Veterans’ Day, two thousand five — Iraq-Afghanistan, two thousand four
hundred dead. Veterans’ Day, two thousand six —
Iraq-Afghanistan, two thousand nine
hundred dead. Veterans’ Day, two thousand seven — Iraq-Afghanistan, three thousand nine
hundred dead. Veterans’ Day, two thousand eight — Iraq-Afghanistan, four thousand two
hundred dead. Veterans’ Day, two thousand nine — Afghanistan-Iraq, five thousand three
hundred dead. And now it’s Veterans’ Day, two thousand ten — Afghanistan-Iraq, five thousand eight
These are our sons and daughters, our mothers and our fathers, our brothers and our sisters, our friends.
And I repeat, five thousand eight
And I repeat, What on earth is
wrong with us?
Shall we gather once again next year
at this Hill of Shining Crosses?
Shall we play the counting game again?
Shall we count the Crosses of the dead, amen,
one Cross for every one who died,
By that time six thousand Crosses will have been prepped and pounded, painted,
planted, then weeds be wacked and fallen Crosses
stacked like flag-draped coffins backed up
in formation awaiting final orders to proceed to
final destination, from child to memory, from memory
to myth, from flesh and bone and blood and
breath to death, from dust to dust, from life to mud
What on earth is wrong with us?
Or shall we gather once again next year at this Hill of Shining Crosses to celebrate the end of war and
count no more?
Shall we end the game? Shall we end Afghanistan-Iraq?
We can if truly we do try, our will
in honor of this Hill.
Each evening before bed, we each shall ask ourselves,
What did I do today to end the count, to end these wars?
And if the answer should be, “Nothing,” then nothing shall be done, inhumanity and
immorality have won, but if the answer is a thing that
is at minimum a mere sliver of a stake driven into war’s
dark heart, there will one day be peace; the
question’s answer thus: that there then is absolutely
nothing wrong with us.
We give to every mother, Mothers’ Day in May,
A day that once asked mothers please to pray,
To work, promote, demand to speak for peace,
To speak for life, for husbands, daughters, sons To love, for fathers home, for wars to
cease. We also give to them in May a cruel reminder
Each and every year that that most tender
In a mother’s life is that which she must render
Homage as memorial while holding back a tear.
On every other day throughout the year,
We give to them a sad and lonely gift
All wrapped in gleaming light —
It is this hill before us bright
As blood cells white among the red,
As the sweetest of sweet memories
Burn and turn to dust, and hope to dread,
As laughing children play among the dead,
As grieving mothers sink onto the ground,
As what they had is lost, never to be found
Again, and life is now an empty shell instead.
Arise! they said back then, and
some did rise,
Some women who had hearts and did advise
Disarm! Disarm! but men continued
Inhuman ways to harm that which they fear —
To Harm! To Harm! what women hold
Arise! Arise! Look up, look out unto divinity:
A hundred million stars at night define infinity,
Each star a grieving mother in the universe who lost
A child to war, each light a member of the trinity: Mother, father, child — the price of war,
Arise! Look at this hill, this cost, and you will devise
A way not to advise but to demand that war will end.
Speak to me, five thousand hillside stars entreat,
Tell us your plan to save our empty souls and defeat
Those who will not count the stars upon this hill —
A hundred million stars at night to count
Cannot be done, for a thousand more are born
Before the counting game is won, but to count
The dead upon this hill is quickly easily to sum
Even though each day the tally grows by one —
To count the dead upon this hill is to end the war:
That is your job, our job, our wish upon a star.
It must be done. It will be done — It’s
The tally will not grow by one on Mothers’ Day,
Memorial Day will honor those dead yesterday,
No stars upon this hill will plead for peace,
For peace will be and war be history, history
Will be the past, the future will be tomorrow
When we will kiss each star goodnight — We Will see it flicker, hold, then
burn as every star
Should burn: forever bright both day and night.
Oh, to know a mother on Mothers’ Day in May, to see her smile,
To honor mothers on Memorial Day in May, to hear them laugh a while,
To never see another star placed upon this hill
— no more —
To see each mother change to be what she had been before.
It’s May. It’s Mothers’ May,
It’s no more dead, we pray.
Bombs bursting in air and the rockets red glare, should — should — give proof through the pain that we are still...where? — Here,
for them still here, for them, when they return home
Oh, yes. So many safely in their family’s arms, loved and fed, clean sheets, clean
clothes: at worst the backfire of a car,
smoke alarms set off by oven pies; best, a
baby’s pudgy toes.
Home. To be home is to be alive,
breathing, answering to a name, flesh and
blood and love, a mouth that laughs, ears that hear
a teething infant cry, eyes that see it smile,
soft, a dove.
And so they live happily ever after — the war for them is over, the death, the killing,
shock and awe — the awe they feel now is
all for family, friends, the ticking of a
Home. Not all live happily ever
after or even happily for a while; not all have a
loving home and some who do may lose it —
fingers not ten, legs not two, mind not one, in a
fog they roam.
In a San Francisco fog, 2,000 veterans sleep the streets; each day their numbers
grow, each day their numbers change: they
weep for those who pass; replaced, they
Who are they, these vets in San Francisco?
Name one, one who once would die for us.
Give him or her a home, and with a home, a name — give him or her a name for
The dead must also have a home, or should, and once again, a name: though
dead, one would have a name, and I ask you now,
name one —
Of those who died, who died for us, name one.
In Iraq, 4,000 dead. Name one. One name. The Gold Star Mothers can name a name, of course, and those who lost a
friend know names, but for the rest of us, they died
for us — one name.
Without a name, they cannot have a home, veterans dead without a name — no
On Veterans’ Day, on every day, at home, in every home, give them back their
Who are you, I want to ask, what is
You died for us in Iraq; now live for us at home.
I know you, I want to say, I know your name.
You died for us there; now live for us here.
Norman, Pleasanton, CA
This Hill before which we now stand glows day and night with quiet
pride and throbs with slowly pulsing
Green trees frame a shining sheet of white that in its purity shocks the
viewer to reality.
Golden grass forms a bed on which to sleep, never to awake, never to breathe
again, never to love again but forever to be
loved, forever to be held, to be caressed by those
who keep memories alive from dawn to darkest
night, implying what is wrong by testament
Each day another soldier dies, each day another soldier gone, each day another soldier murdered by those of us who sleep uncaring, unwilling when awake to choose between right and wrong, singing hymns of prayer as empty song, ignoring that which most we dread: tomorrow is another soldier dead.
This Hill upon which crosses mark each memory, this Hill which glows each day and
night with pride, this Hill which throbs with slowly
pulsing sorrow is meant to stop a war, is meant to
say, “I’m sorry.”
Each day a loved one of a soldier cries in lonely agony — day one a scream, day two the tears that lead to
emptiness, day three dry-eyed outside, wet and
cold inside — a flood of memories and frozen dreams — released, they make
humanity to think; thawed, they remake us
humane: they represent a country known for
war, they name another family maimed by
war, of the many thousands here, they
are one, one more father, mother, daughter,
This Hill is meant to stop a war —
This Hill is meant to say, “I’m sorry.”
Norman, Pleasanton, CA
Crosses of Lafayette
There is a hill in California white with crosses, each cross a testament in honor of
one who died, 4,000 dead, 4,000 crosses, 4,000 memories.
No bodies rest within the ground, no flesh, no bones, but the souls of those who died
roam the hill as ghosts reminding those who live that once
they, too, had life.
Names: they once had names — Who
are they now?
those who would forbid us knowing them.
They once had families — Who are
their siblings now?
those who would forbid us twinning them.
They once were loved — Who loves
those who would forbid us loving them.
There are those who would defile this sacred ground.
There are those who would destroy these memories.
There are those who roam outside the realm of man:
They spit upon these dead, they scream, they curse, they
move like animals, slobber, drool, they
grab their crotches, jump into the air, stick out their
tongues, profane, insane with hate:
Hatred for the crosses on this hill in California, fear and
hatred of reminders that all these dead
were murdered by a hatred of the human race, a hatred now
directed at those who love.
If only they would sit among the crosses, they might see the
truth; if only they would read, they might
stumble on a book of verse explaining love as memories, 4,000
memories as love.
This hill, of course, is poetry: cross rhymes with cross; it is an epic poem: 4,000 stanzas
begging for an end to war; it is a song, a psalm: soft message
on the wind, a lilting plea: Peace — please make for us a world
To those who would treat us here as we were treated there, Peace — please make for us a world of peace.
To those who would continue killing that we might die again, Peace — please make for us a world of peace.
To those who would continue death that we might kill again, Peace — please make for us a world of peace.
Ghosts murmuring with murmuring ghosts, soul with soul, soft message on the wind, a lilting
plea, a rhythmic prayer, cross after cross — please make for
them a world of peace.
Norman, Pleasanton, CA
At 10 PM on a full-moon night this hill of memories glows bright
My God! It is so beautiful.
At 1 AM on this same-moon night this hill of memories still glows
My God! It is so beautiful.
At 3 AM the full moon sets, begets reflections from more
distant living suns that shine, perhaps, on
distant life, reflecting into resurrecting
eyes, if eyes, indeed, at 3 AM are there
to see — if seen, My God! It is so
And yet, among the glowing memories, shadows lurk — stark, contrasting,
Is each glow the headstone of a grave
and is its shadow that which I call
Is each glow a grieving parent, broken spouse, a child now alone, and are their shadows that which I
Proud to be American, proud to be Marine, is that what I call beautiful?
My buddies gather here, your buddies, too, your fathers, sons, your brothers, sisters, mothers, daughters, all here, glowing in the moonlight
Is that what is so beautiful?
No. Oh, no. It is the memories.
This is a hill of memories.
It is the memories that glow.
I remember you, they say, and you must remember us.
Think of us on the full-moon nights, call out our names, connect them to
These — our memories and our souls —
These — these once were beautiful, make them beautiful once again.
They glow on moonlit nights, make them glow in rain, make them glow in sunlight, in the dark, in fog, morning, noon, and night —
My God! They are so beautiful.