J. Holley Watts
I noticed him waiting in line
wearing black leather like so many others that day.
The large book lay open under the thick glass
and he approached it cautiously.
Turning them slowly he paused,
his finger first moving down each page
… then finally across.
With shaking hand he copied numbers
on a slightly crumpled envelope.
I knew this was his first visit to The Wall
He looked so lost… and in such pain.
I touched his arm and asked if I could help.
He just showed me the paper, held tightly now
and I pointed to the other side of The Wall’s apex
… past the crowds filling the path in front of us
on this warm sunny Memorial Day.
I saw his eyes sweep the area—they were not the enemy-
but still he did not move.
As the crowd grew I took his calloused hand
and we walked together, his holding mine tightly
until we reached Panel 47W.
I didn’t show him how to leap-frog by tens
down the black granite-carved diamonds along the edge.
It was better to count each row.
35… 36… 37…
“There he is,” he whispered hoarsely
and touched one of the names etched before him.
We stood in silence
and he drew a ragged breath.
Struggling to open the envelope
he handed the typewritten tribute to me
saying only he didn’t think he could do it.
As I read I could feel people slow as they passed behind us.
It was unsigned and when I finished I handed it back to him.
We stood together in the sun, drenched in our pain.
I squeezed his hand and slowly moved away.
Oh, how I wish I’d hugged him…
for both of us.
©Copyright 2005 by J. Holley Watts