2009: A flag at half-mast, waving
proudly over a little hill
to the east of our house.
My husband and I pass it
on our daily walk,
and wonder who has died.
Imagine: a dirt road, fences
that demarcate ten acre plots,
meat cows, meaning dairy cows,
unfortunate to be born boys,
and given the names T-bone,
Ribeye, and Sirloin Steak.
All three, sold for forty-five dollars
to the man who waves the flag,
everyday, at half-mast.
He’s a good man,
which some would say
is a man in his seventies, a navy vet, a Christian.
All three boxes, checked off.
He also cares for his wife,
who suffered a stroke
brought on by a brain tumor.
She’s in a wheel chair,
she has difficulty remembering words,
she’s a bit judgmental–
musters enough words to let me know
she doesn’t care for my cooking.
I try to be empathetic—
Neighbors, what a strange thing,
thrown together by proximity, land,
houses, maybe a view.
What brought you there,
the only thing you have in common.
But there you are with all your need.
That year, we had the snowiest season ever,
ninety three point six inches,
but no tractor. That meant two feet of snow
in our driveway and kids needing
to get to school, us to work.
Would you believe me if I told you
that same man, that man
flying his flag, everyday at half-mast,
was out in our driveway at six am,
clearing a path to the barn,
clearing a path to the road?
We didn’t even ask it of him,
wouldn’t have thought to ask it.
I imagine you’re wondering,
why I keep saying– he flew the flag at half mast,
but maybe you already guessed
it was because he disapproved the president,
felt the choice would ruin the country.
Thus, a nation in mourning–
when really, it was only him mourning.
It was him saying, I hurt
because of your choice. I ache,
because you voted for a man I opposed.
(Maybe he was saying he was pissed off, too.)
It’s just a flag,
but at half-mast, in my mind,
it became a division:
the day I walked our pony down the road,
and she escaped me and ran
to the base of his flagpole,
the nights the great horned owl
perched on his flagpole
hunting our cats,
the snow days from school,
ten of them that year,
where our kids, and his grandkids,
rode sleds and snowboards down the hill,
while one would stand and look for cars
under his hurting flag.
The flag wouldn’t come back up,
not until his wife died and the house sold,
and his meat cows were replaced
with more meat cows and a horse operation–
and, because it was 2016, a new president
the half-mast man would approve,
but would make others hurt, ache,
kneel, and fly their own flags,
on their own flagpoles, at half-mast.