Friday, June 24, 2011

A Poem to Consider

USS Ward (

I have many friends and family members who are either currently in the military or who formerly were; my grandfather made history as an officer on the USS Ward, the destroyer that shot and sunk a Japanese submarine just outside Pearl Harbor before dawn on 7 December 1941, thus alerting our military of the coming attack. The Ward, with my grandfather as captain was hit by a kamikaze on 7 December 1944, three years to the day after Pearl Harbor; my grandfather was able to evacuate all hands safely before the Ward was scuttled.

So with a history of military service in our family, plus having all three of Keith's sister's children serving at one time or another, and living in San Diego, a true Navy town with many active servicemen and -women in our church, in our neighborhoods, etc., praying for our military is very important to me.

Each I pray for those who are deployed, using my prayer list and the following Collect in the new Book of Common Prayer 2011:

For Those Serving in the Armed Forces
LORD God of hosts, stretch forth your almighty arm to strengthen and protect the soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guards of our country; Support them in the day of battle, and in times of peace keep them safe from all evil; Endue them with courage and loyalty, and grant that in all things, they may serve without reproach; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Why write about the military today? I receive the Poem-A-Day e-mails from, and this poem really brought home what our men and women experience when serving in the Middle East. Earlier this week President Obama announced the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq--which I hope is a wise move. But the military and their needs surround me. One of my friends from church, a Harvard grad in English Lit, is in the Navy, and her husband was just deployed; they recently welcomed their first child, James, into the world. My grown nephews have served in the Middle East, and sons and daughters of church friends are also in active service on the other side of the earth. I think of them, pray for them, and, although I shouldn't, I worry for them.

And this poem powerfully expresses what I pray they won't experience.

by David Hernandez

The donkey. The donkey pulling the cart.
The caravan of dust. The cart made of plywood,
of crossbeam and junkyard tires. The donkey
made of donkey. The long face. The long ears.
The curled lashes. The obsidian eyes blinking
in the dust. The cart rolling, cracking the knuckles
of pebbles. The dust. The blanket over the cart.
The hidden mortar shells. The veins of wires.
The remote device. The red light. The donkey
trotting. The blue sky. The rolling cart. The dust
smudging the blue sky. The silent bell of the sun.
The Humvee. The soldiers. The dust-colored
uniforms. The boy from Montgomery, the boy
from Little Falls. The donkey cart approaching.
The dust. The laughter on their lips. The dust
on their lips. The moment before the moment.
The shockwave. The dust. The dust. The dust.

I'm not sure why this poem hit me so hard. Perhaps it's the simplicity. Or the vivid imagery set up as visual glimpses. Or the power of destruction in the middle of an ordinary day, ordinary happenings.

And I pray my own prayer for our servicemen and -women this night:

Keep our men and women safe, Lord. Surround them with the hedge of Your protection; envelop them in Your loving Presence. Bless them, Lord, as they selflessly serve our country, allowing us to live our lives in safety and freedom. Keep their families left behind safe and well. Preserve their relationships despite the physical distance and time spent far apart; may absence indeed make their hearts grow fonder. May we be grateful for their service as we surrender them into Your safekeeping, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the One Who Saves. Amen.

Prayerfully and poetically,

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