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About Honor

I tried to die, he says
God dammit, how I tried...
his face distorts in the shiny marble mirror
the sloping sheet of aluminum standing ten feet tall,
slicing the snow:
not lying-down-and-making-angels snow,
but the kind you pack into ice balls, throw to hurt.
He tips his hat back and his throat contracts,
his eyes squint at the top name.
Sam Shears, he says
the son of a bitch wouldn't let me go. Wouldn't let them just shoot me where I stood.
one hand clenched at his side,
his voice scratches lines into the wall,
aching as he repeats the tired words
He died for his country, but me... no, he was too damn special.
Wanted to be the only one.
he knows his speech is blemished even as
he speaks
the hat falls to the pathway,
his right hand to his forehead:
a salute so arrogant it seems like he's punching this man,
this faceless stone name,
but when his hand comes away he's crying.

Listen, he says
It isn't that I wanted to be a hero...
but he stops.
He opens his clenched fist and lets
the metal star drop into the snow.
Only room for one hero in the family, he murmurs,
huh, Sammy?

9 February 2001