Reminiscence

Facing the dedication plaque of The East Coast Memorial in Battery Park,
sat a navy spiral bound with a worn post-it note upon the cover.
Head slightly tilted, I scoff at the carelessness of some kids.

Intending to toss the book into a bin we keep at the office
filled mostly with hoodies and socks –
don’t ask me how you lose just one, ’cause I don’t know—
I look down upon the cover in my left hand
and notice this phrase, written in a young girl’s script,
“Please take me home, share your journey, then pass me on;”
and I am struck by the naivety of these words.

Flipping the cover open, my eyes are then met with,
“April 24, 2001
My name is Samantha, and I live in Moneta, Virginia. I’m twelve
years old and enjoy science…”

What am I supposed to do with this: a child’s attempt at unifying the world?
Turning the page, the date was now September 10 of the same year,
and the story is of James, a homeschooled old boy from Richmond,
flying up to Colorado to visit with his dad. Tossing

it on a terminal chair near a flight bound for LAX it was found
by a twenty-something named Megan, meeting her twin who had just finished
his second tour in Kuwait. The new mother briefly skimmed
the pages while waiting for her brother, then penned a piece
about who she dreamed her daughter would become:
a surgeon, particularly that of the heart.

Becoming intrigued by this woman, I sat down on the nearest bench
and continued their tale. Seeing John’s flight arrive,
the diary was placed into her pack to be carried home,
before she rushed to greet her closest friend.

Four years later, while cleaning out boxes for a New Year’s resolution,
the journal was thought of and Megan left in the Kroger basket
while she gathered the ingredients to make her great-grandmother’s vegetable soup.
On his way to pick up medication for his father,
a history professor saw it next. Adding a short account
regarding his focus on minorities and women in American History,
Dr. Clark handed the spiral to his niece, who was heading towards Manhattan
to visit her grandfather.

After a five hour flight, an orange duffle bag was placed upon a hardwood floor.
Tales of life left on the living room table, Amy settled in for the night.
A veteran of World War II, Walter is eighty-seven years old
and takes his life moment-by-moment
because that was the only way to survive
with bombs exploding and friends falling dead on either side.

Though he rarely spoke of his time in Germany,
as he sat before a carved eagle,
like he had every morning since its dedication in 1963,
he thought about the men who served under him.
And in this notebook, he wrote their names: every man in his unit,
who did not come home.
Entrusting their stories to another, he finished his walk.

Staring down at this last entry, my mind forgot how to think.
I was overwhelmed that this diary of a twelve year old girl
had somehow managed to become a memorial to those killed in action.

Silent moments passed, and with bound letters still in hand,
I thought about my niece, who lives in Virginia,
about fifteen minutes from this girl called Samantha. I wondered
if they had ever met and if that child had the slightest imaginings
about what passing on her tale would become.

And yet, what was I supposed to write?
How could I follow the somber courage left behind by this man?
And then, as if lighting had flashed above my head, my body jolted
with realization that my tale was theirs.

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