The Young War Widow Speaks
By Ruby Baird Andersen
What good is a medal of oak leaves
On velvet in a case,
When the mind holds on to pictures
The heart cannot erase?
What good is a gilded name plate
On the town’s memorial plaque
When your only love has gone
And can never, oh, never come back?
On the back-yard bench the spring sun lies
Where he liked to sit making fishing flies.
No alchemy can work
In teeming word, or sun,
If the heart is but a withered cone
And every dream is done.
Though I’m young in numbered years
And should be babbling bold,
I know of silence and longsuffering
As do the tired ones and the old.
The plum hangs ripe on the green-leafed limb,
Just a little taller than the head of him.
Learn, I must, of many things,
And unlearn many more.
What is the shape of memory?
Is it twisted, pointed, and sharp?
Or large, star-shaped, and smooth
Like the dulcet tones of the harp?
The sumac is red near the canyon’s mouth,
Three years since he went to camp in the South.
Seasons can return again,
New life that is spring’s,
Exultation that belongs to May time,
And fruition that August brings;
But blood and bone are passing,
And muscle cannot last,
Passion palpitates but once,
Life’s momentum soon is past.
Memory often serves as bread,
Or as a drink from which one sips,
But memory cannot place a kiss
Fresh upon the lips.
The snowflakes slant around the corner light–
There’s a mound that’s cold in a foreign night.
Is it creeping centuries,
Or only a thousand hours
That by this casement window
I’ve climbed the night’s blue towers
To find this word, this answer:
There’s One who understands–
I must lift my heart myself,
With a pair of working hands.