The field is full, all eyes on the gazebo
where the Army Band stands in full
regalia, men in blues, women in long
skirts, white shirts buttoned to necks
in July heat, throats visible for notes
Our anthem starts, men with hips askew,
cragged necks, rise in unison from lawn
chairs scattered in this spontaneous summer
theatre. Women, toddlers, grandparents, teens,
soldiers fresh from the battlefield, place hands
over hearts, sing while the ensemble blares
accompaniment—at least a half dozen
French horns gleam with reflected sunset.
We return to our seats (Mine has a footrest
that never works and a handful of sand
from last summer at the shore), an evening
of glory begins – Sousa of course, then
a touch of South America, a rondo
of flutes, a confluence of sounds
soothes, rouses, chills.
Then the hymns of the armed services,
stand when you hear yours, says the
conductor, and as those around us stand—
navy, marines, air force, army, we sit in awe,
watch those older, those younger, those who
rose easily, those whose wives and children
helped to their feet, share their pride, sense
their service as the conductor offers his
stiff-hand salute to the array.
A bevy of piccolos trills as Stars and
Stripes Forever provides the penultimate
thrill. The leader then asks us to rise as dusk
shrouds the field, to sing God Bless America.
We place politics in our back pockets to share
a sliver of patriotism with our neighbors on this,
the weekend of Independence Day.
© by Gail Fishman Gerwin.
Used with the author’s permission.