Monday, April 16, 2007

Poem: Known Unto God by Robin McGrath

A new poem from Robin McGrath, now living in Goose Bay, Labrador home of the FiveWing Airbase.

Known Unto God

At the rededication of the Vimy Ridge monument,
The visitors, interpreters, politicians,
Roam among the graves. The ages of the dead
Stand out for them—twenty-five, twenty-seven,
Nineteen! Many have no ages, no names,
Are known only to have lived and died.
“Women should run the country,” one visitor says.
Usually there are no tour buses, just
Fog and grass and a few silent pilgrims.

Fewer still make their way through the woods,
To the graveyard at FiveWing Airbase.
Here, the ages are younger still—three, five, seven.
Polio epidemics, gastroenteritis, perhaps
A congenital defect at birth, stole them
From their parents in this far flung outpost.
More small graves have no names, no dates, just
Plain white wooden crosses, uniform brass plaques
Etched with those three sad, simple words.
The graves of these babies far outnumber
Those of the soldiers and airmen buried here;
Thrown away, abandoned, forgotten, some whisper,
While others answer my questions with silence.

Each season, some woman, still a child herself
When she gave birth, visits the last row, ties
Tiny gifts of flowers, toys, dollar store mementos,
To each cross in the row, unsure which is her child,
Covering her bets and mourning all the babies.
Who waged this war against infants? Who decreed
That this military cemetery would take
To its sandy breast so many children?
If women ran the country, the monument would be
As big as that at Vimy Ridge, the nation would mourn.