Back Pew

I watch from my seat as the crowd files in

The widow and children sobbing with grief

They knew the end was near, that you were sick, yet still it's a shock

To the most important people you knew, I'm a stranger

And yet I'm here

With others you probably never met

Hearing the sermons and words of loved ones, I start to get a sense of who you were

It seems to drag on until everything stops

Then we all stand and walk down the aisle

Uniform pants, dress blues, and polished shoes

Last and least of all is me

We hug those grieving or shake their hands

We line up outside, shivering in the winter wind

There's one last duty we must perform

Even rows on either side

I've never been here before. What do I do?

Head up, arms down, back straight

And now come six men, struggling with the weight

The command rings in the air "DETAIL! SALUTE!"

Mine is clumsy; no one has ever taught me how to do it

I don't know the man being carried to the engine

But because I volunteer, he is my brother

Salutes down, the crowds disperse, my hand is numb

I shove it in my pocket

I hope you are at peace

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