Missive the Sixty-Seventh

American Woman,
Old Glory.

DATELINE: Saturday, July 14, 2001, at 1212 hours CDT.
Conway, Arkansas, USA

By D. Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles
CornDancer & Company

Too long ago in the moist cool of early springtime came a cry from the owl of darkest night, hooting high the budding branches of grandmother oak. Why the owl's voice surges to memory now in the fire of summer is another of the mysteries.

The American woman, mature and weary now, mourned the too recent passing of her mate with sobs and reminiscence. At the kitchen table five days after he departed from the veil of tears, she saw her man's swift shadow pass behind the seated form of her only daughter. The shadow appeared in bright morning's light.

The fine old man was buried with honor two days before his shadow passed by the women in the kitchen.

At the graveyard ritual beside freshly turned earth, a sergeant of the artillery from Fort Sill in Oklahoma commanded the folding of the flag of the United States of America. The sergeant and a young private lifted the flag from top of the casket. They folded it with measured cadence, with reverence and a slow salute, into a studied triangle of white stars and blue.

Outstanding in bearing and demeanor, the sergeant knelt between the coffin of the fallen old airman and his bride of sixty years, the American woman, who sat in her widow's seat in the shade of the funereal canopy. The sergeant reached forward with a warrior's gentleness and transferred possession of a flag from the nation to the citizen.

The flag stood for something, but the meaning could be nebulous and slippery, private and dissolute. At the moment of its transference, the flag stood in place of a life. Some of the mourners, clustered 'round the grave under the burning heat of a southern summer afternoon, recognized Old Glory as a symbol of one man's honorable service to an ideal of nationhood, which had died without glory some years before him.

The American woman, blood of Cherokee and Saxon and Celt flowing slowly through her broken heart, accepted the flag with one hand. With the other she reached out and, clutching a handkerchief, wiped away rivers of sweat and a solitary tear from the face of the strong soldier kneeling before her.

in your mailbox sometime.
Once I wrote according to an internal deadline.
It worked well enough.
Now I glide in luxury,
awaiting communion with a Muse.

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| 2001 by David Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles |
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