‘Memorial Day Bridges’: A Poem

I’ve posted this poem from 1978 on the blog before. It was written soon after the experience that provided the brief story thread. In those days, I was constantly on the lookout for images and incidents that could feed a new composition. I wanted to write, write, write. It’s a slight piece, but has kept my interest over the years. I marched in Memorial Day parades a couple of times as a Boy Scout. My family went to parades and celebrated the holiday with cook-outs full of my first cousins and their folks. Sometimes there’d be a softball game if we were at the Bradys’ house in Centralville, across from Hovey Square Park, Aiken Avenue. My father and uncles served in combat in WWII (except Uncle Roger who was too young, but later joined the Marines). They weren’t the marching type, however. They didn’t talk a lot about what they had seen and done. My cousins and I knew bits and pieces of their war experiences. I assume they talked among themselves when we kids weren’t around. Their generation had a massive shared experience that united them. The older I get, the more astounding their service seems to me. They got up out of their chairs in Lowell and went to fight in Europe, on the oceans and seas, and across the islands in the Pacific Ocean. We see some of the names at intersections all over the city, the signs that mark what some people call “Hero Squares.”—PM


Memorial Day Bridges


That morning in Massachusetts

on the Parker Avenue bridge,

veterans of foreign wars

fired the yearly volley

over wreath-christened Beaver Brook.

Carrying M1 Garand rifles

like suitcases at their sides,

nine men in garrison caps walked back

to a decommissioned fire truck,

Post 315′s parade wagon.

Across the bridge,

up the road a short way,

a mud turtle’s dome

that looked like

an olive-steel doughboy’s helmet

had been run over by a car,

the cracked house droozling yolk.

From his front yard,

a kid called for a passing van

to finish off the reptile.

That night in Newport, Maine,

a dry ring of flowers on a tripod

marked the town’s salute

chiseled in bridge stone.

Below the cement deck

the Sebasticook River blacked out.

Foam rushed through spaces in the dam.


—Paul Marion (c) 1978, 2015