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  • NYS Writers Institute

A poem by Dan Wilcox: "Memorial Day (1999)"

Dan Wilcox served in the Army from 1969 through 1971. He is a photographer, peace activist, and longtime supporter of the local poetry scene and the Albany chapter of Veterans for Peace:


By Dan Wilcox

The snap of the snare drums

the military beat of the bass drum

the bands play the Marine hymn

the Air Force song

the Stars & Stripes Forever

misnamed marches humming us to death

fake rifles snapped to real shoulders

what the crowd came to expect on Memorial Day, in the parade.

But this year a Peace Division marched too

with signs & aging draftees & veterans of the Cold War

with Jun-San & other Bodhisattvas from the Peace Pagoda

sending out another beat on flat, round drums

chanting the Sutra of the Lotus of the Wonderful Law


slow, meditative, on & on, the beat of the flat drum

one, two, three, four, onetwothree

This is not the way soldiers were taught to march

one, two, three, four, onetwothree

no cymbal crash, no drumroll

one, two, three, four, onetwothree

the curved wooden sticks against the thin drums

one, two, three, four, onetwothree



until the bands, the high school cadets

the old veterans themselves

stumble, fall out of step with the military

lose the rhythm of guns & war

& march to the beat of World Peace.

© Dan Wilcox

Dan Wilcox on the web:

Paul Grondahl's conversation with Dan Wilcox, first published July 13, 2020

Dan Wilcox blog:

Dan Wilcox on Flickr:

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