“With a Smile”

Volume 8 | Spring 2018

by Cecilia Y. Maiden

There is a medal without a name,
Heavy and full of angles.
A ribbon, striking red.
Brushed metal, full and set.
   People never knew that name,
nor I, until I had to ask.

I greeted the thing with a smile. 
A deep-set smile, teethed and bright.

I never knew a thing of war.
All that I have left of it
Is a smile.
A sensational smile. 
And a poem, printed in matte paint
onto the side of a tall building.

There is also a book.
A long lost book of stretched leather.
A nameless book
With a bookmark and red underlinings
That run for paragraphs, 

I had heard of the book as I had heard of the medal.
A year ago,
Before I knew the name.
I had asked about the book;
   No one knew — 
then it was found.

And now, it appears to be mine.
I was told I could “have it”.

Its memories;
Baptized and conquered within a day;
Will make their way across the ocean
In the bottom of a suitcase
At the end of that summer,
and in the name of I.

I will greet it with a smile. 
A deep-set smile, teethed and bright.

I will store it with the soldier’s blue cigarette box,
Unbroken and horror-less.
Not a scratch nor bruise.
Imbued yet unconcerned with the memories attached.
   These silent things,
They will be all that is left of them.

Of the nameless soldiers.
There is an expiration date.
In twenty years, they say,
We will have lost the living ones.
   The ones who knew their names. 
But I, will learn them.