Gabriel Welsch

Birthplace of Memorial Day

That day, a man drives a parade float
over his mother. Seniors in lawn chairs grumble,
can’t see the EMTs or the ambulance, wonder why
the parade has stopped and the baton groups
have stalled their twirling of affected grace. Mothers
spritz girls with water bottles, lipstick
themselves in the reflection of their men’s fenders.
Those scant with beards and cigarette eyes
lurk under caps with chainsaw logos and beer brands
in their trucks with roof-mounted woofers
blasting dance mixes of Celine Dion
at their daughters and nieces doing hip grinds
and other moves mimicked from MTV
in home-sewn costumes dense with sequins
hanging on their rod-straight frames. No one knows
the fate of the woman far ahead, or the mind
of the man who hit her, who is gone suddenly,
hunkered under the fire hall barbecue tent,
where the men in trucks normally gather on Thursdays
to complain about their wives or their kids or to wince
at what they don’t say about who died or to gripe
about respect, how fires don’t douse themselves. But they do,
all the time. They burn and burn and exhaust
their tinder, their air, their abundance, their light.

Gabriel Welsch
Poem, copyright © 2005 by Gabriel Welsch
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission
Audio file, copyright © 2005, From the Fishouse