“The Pinning of the Badge”

by Michael Foran

Passing the gate and dress blue officers
at my daughter’s police academy graduation,
and the stoic faces of this new circle,
I think of old uniforms and the unborn,
or taken young, marked like notches
on the green head bands of steel pots,
on the helmets of three generations,
and the dances with courage,
and the inability to say
no more, I will not step forward
into this peaceful sky,
into the grunt and prop blast
and diesel fumes of a C-130 Hercules,
or hear the echo’d call of jumpers screaming
Geronimo in honor of that courage,
or the sounds of the big guns of cannoneers
nor read again the letters written
in faded cursive fountain pen ink,
from a father to a son,
about the difference between youth and age
and that substitute for wisdom
and the inability to fear,
their reputations more distant now,
the distorted views of toughness
and broken bones,
noses bent sideways before leathered
facemasks hid fear,
holes punched through bodies,
windows, plastered walls,
unsuspecting faces scarred,
and a memory of my mother found
crumpled and bruised at the bottom
of the basement stairs,
the kind eye, the one scarred and titled upwards
at me, past me, in the same way
that would follow fixed forever
into her last night on earth,
I adjust my tie and prepare
for the pinning of the badge.