Memorial Day 2011

Memorial tombs
Annette Marie Hyder

hold the hordes of dead
who were mother’s sons and sweetheart’s lovers
but whose last acts sang not of soft things
but rang with the horns of war
ran with the dogs of gore
struck the pipe and drum of death
a terrible percussion
that has left their restless bones
that string the memory of marching
all along their lengths
wanting to gather once again
as if in some sort of Valhalla
to fight, to hew, to break against
the enemy
in perpetuity.

A soldier’s grave seems not to be
a peaceful one to me
on this Memorial Day,
two thousand and eleven.

Image Public Domain: Three Valkyries bring the body of a slain warrior to Valhalla, they are met by Heimdallr in this frontispiece by Lorenz Frølich (1820–1908) for Teutonic Mythology


In Norse mythology, Valhalla is where the chosen heroes go after they are slain on the battlefield. Fiercely beautiful winged goddesses of war known as the Valkyrie choose who will die on the battlefield and carry the favored heroes to the all-father god Odin’s hall, Valhalla. Valhalla is a paradise of sorts — at least for warriors who look forward to proving their worth on the battleground so that they can go there. Every morning in Valhalla the heroes get up and drink mead and feast mightily and then fight each other and slay each other through the day until there are none left standing. The next day they waken/are resurrected to do it all again.

Literary quotes of interest:

The Bible

By the sword:

‘Then Jesus said to him “Return your sword to its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” ‘ — Matthew 26:52 NWT


” Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war” :

    Marcus Antonius:
    And Caesar’s spirit, raging for revenge,
    With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
    Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
    Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war,
    That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
    With carrion men, groaning for burial.
    Julius Caesar Act 3, scene 1, 270–275

“Cry Havoc!” is derived from the Old French “crier havot” — to send out the signal to
begin pillaging. Latter-day usage of “cry havoc” follows Shakespeare in
the figurative sense of “call down destruction.” More information on the etymology of the phrase can be found here online.

Sun Tzu (Chinese military general, strategist, philosopher and author of The Art of War)

“Thus those skilled in war subdue the enemy’s army without battle …. They conquer by strategy.”  — Sun Tzu

Links of interest:

Memorial Day Comes As Troops Fight In Afghanistan
U.S. Memorial Day History
Memorial Day 2010

From the blackened sky

Annette Marie Hyder

The rain beats its wings
against my window
like a frightened bird

and you are like that
like a bird seeking shelter
from the storm
while at the same time
you are  the storm
and running from yourself.

Casement, sash, hinges and latch
all contrive to see my window come undone
for you.

My window is open
to the elements, to the rain, to you
my window is open
for you to come through.

Romantic Wrecks and Sea Dreams

Annette Marie Hyder

The sky is made of sea dreams this evening
doubloons wink as early stars
pearl and half-shell clouds drift
across the deep sky
and the wavering light ripples like liquid
like waves lapping gently
in a current from the tops of the pearls
to the tips of the trees
some bare, some flowering
and all of them looking like branches of coral
in a romantic underwater wreck.

Flying, bicycles and black trash bags

Photo courtesy of Daniel Gordon’s “Flying Pictures” project. To view more images from Daniel Gordon’s “Flying Pictures” project, click here. Click here for an article about the project featured in The New Yorker.

Ad Augusta Per Angusta (“To High Places By Narrow Roads”)

I couldn’t help but think of my older brother and black plastic garbage bags these past few days. They have been blustery, windy days and the gust of their winds blew me right back to the day my brother Thom promised to take me flying on his bike.

I was six years old and I was skeptical. I was not cynical by nature but doubtful by rights. I wanted to believe him when he said that all he had to do was angle his bicycle the right way and with me holding tightly to him and with the large black plastic garbage bag we took from the cupboard tied around my shoulders, off we’d go.

So, perched precariously and wearing “wings” of hope and plastic, I rode into the storm behind my brother. I tried to ignore my doubts and prepared myself to fly. I imagined how we would need to steer clear of the telephone wires lining the road — wouldn’t want to get tangled up in those. I pictured myself landing on top of our rooftop and running around up there; pictured my mother’s face (in my imagination filled with pride) and my other sibling’s looks (in my imagination filled with envy) when they discovered our accomplishment.

I did my part. I hung on tight. I lifted my butt off the seat frequently and energetically, instinctively feeling that rising up on my part would encourage the same of the bicycle. I angled the bag strategically with my shoulders and shouted encouragement to Thom.

The last thing I remember is a cloaking blackness overwhelming my senses. Yes, there was a tragic fall.  Yes, I was knocked out by either (to this day we are not sure) the plastic bag cutting off my oxygen or the knock to my head when we crashed the bike. And if you can believe it, for the longest time, I really thought we had taken flight. I don’t mean the “Wicked Witch of the West” kind of flight — peddling through the air. I mean I distinctly recalled lifting free of the ground and being airborne.

Come to find out, this sibling version of the flight of Daedalus and Icarus did involve a small break with gravity. It happened when we launched into the air after we hit a bump in the road that acted like a ramp and sent us flying.