by Rachel Firth
Autumn leaves rustling, together to the appointed place, the old warriors come.
Pilgrims, drifting across the sand they fought to preserve.
Where they meet is not important anymore.
They meet and that's enough for now.
Greetings echo across a lobby.
Hands reach out and arms draw buddies close.
Embraces, that as young men they were too uncomfortable to give, too shy to accept so lovingly.
But deep within these Indian Summer days, they have reached a greater understanding of life and love.
The shells holding their souls are weaker now, but hearts and minds grow vigorous remembering.
On a table someone spreads old photographs, a test of recollection. And friendly laughter echoes at shocks of hair gone gray or white, or merely gone.
The rugged, slender bodies lost forever. Yet they no longer need to prove their strength.
Some are now sustained by one of "medicine miracles” and even in this fact they manage to find humor.
The women, all those that waited, all those who love them, have watched the changes take place.
Now, they observe and listen, and smile at each other; as glad to be together as the men.
Talk turns to war and planes and foreign lands.
Stories are told and told again, reweaving the threadbare fabric of the past.
Amending one more time the banner of their youth.
They hear the vibrations, feel the shudder of metal as engines whine and whirl, and planes come to life.
These birds with fractured wings can be seen beyond the mist of clouds, and they are in the air again, chasing the wind, feeling the exhilaration of flight, close to the heavens.
Dead comrades, hearing their names spoken, wanting to share in this time, if only in spirit, move silently among them.
Their presence is felt and smiles appear beneath misty eyes.
Each in his own way, may wonder who will be absent another year.
The room grows quiet for a time.
Suddenly an ember flames to life. Another memory burns.
The talk may turn to other wars and other men. and or futility.
So, this is how it goes. The past is so much present.
In their ceremonies, the allegiances, the speeches and the prayers, one cannot help but hear the deep eternal love of country they will forever share.
Finally, it is time to leave.
Much too soon to set aside this little piece of yesterday, but the past cannot be held too long for it is fragile.
They say, "Farewell...see you next year, God willing."
Each keeping a little of the others with him forever.