Author: John N. Miller
Location: Lexington, Virginia
Though born in Ohio (1933), John N. Miller grew up in Hawai'i (1937-1951) and retired from college teaching (British and American literature, creative writing) in 1997. He and his German-born wife Ilse now live in an elegant geriatric ghetto ("retirement community") in Lexington, Virginia.
“SAVE THE BATTLEFIELDS”: Ohio Bumper Sticker
Which ones—the Warsaw ghetto?
Stalingrad? Tarawa? Normandy?
Inchon? Bien Hoa? Fallujah?
Or, nearer home, the long-known litany
of Civil War sites?
Can there be monuments enough
for all who starved or died slowly
shrieking in agony
or were blasted into shreds of flesh?
Should we save the battlefields per se—
their splintered trees and shell holes, muddy
trenches, rat-infested, reeking
with latrinal stench, strung with barbed wire;
their square miles of urban rubble,
ruptured gas mains, water lines destroyed,
air thickened by ash and undying
odor of smoke and human rot?
Save us our battlefields as manicured
commemorative plots, presentable
row after measured row of white crosses
or granite slabs conveying the rhetoric
of disciplined, age-honored elegy,
where children by the busload come
to learn their history and to pay homage
to “the fallen” while adults meander
with heads bowed, hands clasped behind their backs,
over the rich, compost-rooted grass.