Travel and Death- A Normandy Poem

Normandy American Cemetery, Coleville-sur-Mer. Photo by Author.

Normandy American Cemetery, Coleville-sur-Mer. Photo by Author.

To go to another continent, to face your nationality, your origin, your culture, your frame of reference, is to encounter yourself, perhaps for the first time.

Also –

Dying and packing a suitcase are the same.

Traveling abroad and death are understood only by those that undertake the obstacles of finding one’s way in another language, with unfamiliar maps, with your best guess.

Like that twilight drive years ago, away from a body in a Pennsylvania hospital, paying a parking meter, as we did, returning home without their father, without her husband, without their brother, without my future father-in-law.

I remember stepping upon unknown earth.

I trespassed onto the grounds of heartache.

I sidestepped explosives, my feet found delicate phrasing,

I placed the weight of my sorrow on toes that somehow withstood the pressure.

I blinked for days – sunlight raw, unbearable, out of place.

Our view the day before – false hope.

The next – folly in that view.

But back to where I stand this day, years later:

Nine-thousand crosses, 41 sets of brothers, even dogs in the foxholes,

American Cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer. Photo by Author.

American Cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer. Photo by Author.

blown to new kingdoms and rooms with windows looking out to gardens,

where words, routes, the way out, lead to the object of desire.

The map, the one-way ticket, the lamp, a curvilinear road, mild air, rays of day’s illumination, a manuscript, a book of hours.

One minute here, in your country, knowing all that you know.

The next, your shins peeling, like shedding snake skin.

Your journey is concluding, you are different now.

Yet so few know what it is,

inside your skin and scales.

Only the sojourners,

truth be told,

as it is revealed in both a passage and a loss,

walk with you now.

They walk with you, inside you, in the oxygen, in the detritus of what you exhale.

These souls now accompany us into the place of regret,

whispers on a long plane ride.

An endless walk.

In London, the subterranean chambers marked Way Out.

We, those who have lost, those who have traveled away,

look for the placard –

Way Home.

Vierville-sur-Mer - Omaha Beach. Photo by Author.

Vierville-sur-Mer – Omaha Beach. Photo by Author.

Armistice Day display and Poppy Appeal outside Westminster Abbey. Photo by Joe McCrossen.

Armistice Day display and Poppy Appeal outside Westminster Abbey. Photo by Joe McCrossen.

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