I first realized I was lost
The day the bully tore the dog tag
From my neck, the one I wore
With pride for my fallen father
The one that bore his name
Identical to my own, a hero’s insignia.
I was not mean enough, nor was I
Either strong, or brave, or daring
Enough to fight him and take it back,
Less like my father than I wished
And that injury to my sense of self
Lingered like an equation
Whose unknown value questioned
Who am I and what name to give
To this life of mine lived, unlived
For the best of it has passed
And the worst is coming
Like the bully who stole my name.

Now the old haunting threats return
While I sleep, dreams of my failures
And the regretful meanderings
Of someone searching to know the truth
About himself, or the choices he made
The faces of those he loved, and the birth
Of fatherhood, the wisdom of the heart
Who has known the courage it takes
To be truly with another in their rage, 
In their longing, in their searching for a name.

I belong to the fierce priest who has put aside his sword
For a clay chalice made of the same dust
Collected from an army of dead heroes
Who fought for peace. 
I am their memory of what matters most
What is worthy of a life
What cannot be taken, nor borrowed
Only lived.
Who am I? Go to the wall of names
Found in graveyards and memorial parks
Search for me there, and know

I am etched in the cold stone
Engraved onto the walls of sacrifice
Lost among the others like stars,
Like grains of sand, like the fading words
You try to read on old gravestones. 
Do not hold me in your thoughts, 
Hold all the children of all the wars
Especially those you are about to wage
Place around their necks the name
That tells them how precious they are
And the fierce life they must live.


Richmond, VA

I write to stay deeply connected to my inner voice as best I can listen. My life is a practice of helping others do the same. You can find out more about me, my family, and my work at my website Delphi Initiatives.

Melvin DowdyComment