From heroic effort to the pathos
of the broken dead, a child’s toy
abandoned in the road, is only
a single step into randomness.
Why this one, who leapt so fearless
in the surf, why was he
destroyed and swallowed in the
red tide, he and not the next
who followed and prevailed?
These men at once machine and
vulnerable flesh cut off
from life and love and being young
now lie in rows too numberless for thought -
no randomness allowed in this, the
garden of the lost. No laughter now,
no language to describe
the lives that made them friend or foe,
but the differentiated dead
are still beneath the plaque or cross
of those who held and those who came
and we now walk these quiet parks
and think upon the unlived years.
I am the child you never had,
my son, and weep a mother’s tears.
I wrote this in the garden of the Chatêau de Molay after our visit to Omaha Beach. The hideous futility of training, travelling halfway across the world from some deep Western state of America to die the moment the landing craft dropped its ramp - all that made a deep impression, as did the serried ranks of graves on the cliffs above the shore.