Through the lace at the window,
I see two men, fingers fidgeting.
Polished shoes rock the porch
beneath sharpened blue trousers,
the glow of a cross
and silver bars reflecting an icy sky.
Their ribbons, thick summaries
of months ticked off the calendar
and stitched in gold upon dark sleeves.
Weathered knuckles reach for the door
and we all three wince in that singularity.
In that silence I recall the script.
First, robotic introductions:
names and ranks I won’t hear,
places and units I won’t remember.
Am I the wife of Samuel R. Vanallen?
I am, and his friend, his lover,
his children’s mother, his mentor
and his better nature, his fantasy.
I am the one to whom you’ll pass
a spangled blue triangle.
May we come inside, please?
Away from the unnamed women
cold stomached, hunkered behind their blinds,
all whispering prayers and private hatreds of this place
where widows are born but never quite die.
We pass through the oneness
as authority knocks and I answer,
the door swinging wide in the cold.
They begin the practiced words,
these young men made to be old,
their sympathy smothered by decorum.
Are you Mrs. Samuel R. Vanallen?