Memorial Day for the War Dead

Yehuda Amichai

 
Memorial day for the war dead.  Add now
the grief of all your losses to their grief,
even of a woman that has left you.  Mix
sorrow with sorrow, like time-saving history,
which stacks holiday and sacrifice and mourning
on one day for easy, convenient memory.
Oh, sweet world soaked, like bread,
in sweet milk for the terrible toothless God.
"Behind all this some great happiness is hiding."
No use to weep inside and to scream outside.
Behind all this perhaps some great happiness is hiding.
Memorial day.  Bitter salt is dressed up
as a little girl with flowers.
The streets are cordoned off with ropes,
for the marching together of the living and the dead.
Children with a grief not their own march slowly,
like stepping over broken glass.
The flautist's mouth will stay like that for many days.
A dead soldier swims above little heads
with the swimming movements of the dead,
with the ancient error the dead have
about the place of the living water.
A flag loses contact with reality and flies off.
A shopwindow is decorated with
dresses of beautiful women, in blue and white.
And everything in three languages:
Hebrew, Arabic, and Death.
A great and royal animal is dying
all through the night under the jasmine
tree with a constant stare at the world.
A man whose son died in the war walks in the street
like a woman with a dead embryo in her womb.
"Behind all this some great happiness is hiding."
 
From Amen by Yehuda Amichai, published by Harper & Row. Copyright © 1977 Yehuda Amichai. Used by arrangement with HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Further Reading

Poems About Tragedy and Grief
"My True Love Hath My Heart and I Have His"
by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge
Adonais, 49-52, [Go thou to Rome]
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Hamlet, Act III, Scene I [To be, or not to be]
by William Shakespeare
Against Elegies
by Marilyn Hacker
Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100
by Martín Espada
Arise, Go Down
by Li-Young Lee
Assault to Abjury
by Raymond McDaniel
Before
by Carl Adamshick
Breaking Across Us Now
by Katie Ford
Curtains
by Ruth Stone
Day of Grief
by Gerald Stern
Dear Lonely Animal,
by Oni Buchanan
December, 1919
by Claude McKay
Easter 1916
by W. B. Yeats
Eulogy
by Kevin Young
Facing It
by Yusef Komunyakaa
Fairbanks Under the Solstice
by John Haines
here rests
by Lucille Clifton
Hum
by Ann Lauterbach
I Can Afford Neither the Rain
by Holly Iglesias
I Found Her Out There
by Thomas Hardy
I measure every Grief I meet (561)
by Emily Dickinson
I Pack Her Suitcase with Sticks, Light the Tinder, and Shut the Lid
by Rob Schlegel
Imagine
by Kamilah Aisha Moon
In Louisiana
by Albert Bigelow Paine
Lycidas
by John Milton
On His Deceased Wife
by John Milton
Ozymandias
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Pretty Polly
by Jane Springer
Quiet Mourning
by Laura Moriarty
Requiescat
by Matthew Arnold
Richard Cory
by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Rose Aylmer
by Walter Savage Landor
September 1, 1939
by W. H. Auden
Song ["When I am dead, my dearest"]
by Christina Rossetti
Stillbirth
by Laure-Anne Bosselaar
Surprised By Joy
by William Wordsworth
That This
by Susan Howe
The Dead
by Joan Aleshire
The Gaffe
by C. K. Williams
The Hour and What Is Dead
by Li-Young Lee
The Not Tale (Funeral)
by Caroline Bergvall
The Second Coming
by W. B. Yeats
The Stolen Child
by W. B. Yeats
The Widow's Lament in Springtime
by William Carlos Williams
The Words Under the Words
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Tigers
by Melissa Ginsburg
To W.C.W. M.D.
by Alfred Kreymborg
Poems About War
Henry V, Act III, Scene I [One more unto the breach, dear friends]
by William Shakespeare
The Iliad, Book I, Lines 1-15
by Homer
War Music [Down on your knees, Achilles]
by Christopher Logue
A Wedding at Cana, Lebanon, 2007
by Tom Sleigh
April 27, 1937
by Timothy Steele
At Bay
by Carl Phillips
Bagram, Afghanistan, 2002
by Marvin Bell
Before the Deployment
by Jehanne Dubrow
Death Fugue
by Paul Celan
Dulce et Decorum Est
by Wilfred Owen
Eighth Air Force
by Randall Jarrell
For the Fallen
by Laurence Binyon
For the Union Dead
by Robert Lowell
Forms of Range and Loathing
by Ruth Ellen Kocher
Grass
by Carl Sandburg
I Have a Rendezvous with Death
by Alan Seeger
I Hear an Army
by James Joyce
i sing of Olaf glad and big
by E. E. Cummings
Mosul
by David Hernandez
My Father on His Shield
by Walt McDonald
Peace
by Henry Vaughan
Peace
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Phantom Noise
by Brian Turner
Poems about War
Romance
by Charles Reznikoff
Ships That Pass in the Night
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Spoken From the Hedgerows
by Jorie Graham
The Battle Hymn of the Republic
by Julia Ward Howe
The Coming of War: Actæon
by Ezra Pound
The Czar's Last Christmas Letter: A Barn in the Urals
by Norman Dubie
The Fall of Rome
by W. H. Auden
The Long Deployment
by Jehanne Dubrow
The Mask of Anarchy [Excerpt]
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
The War After the War
by Debora Greger
The War Works Hard
by Dunya Mikhail
The Wound-Dresser
by Walt Whitman
Untitled [1950 June 27]
by Don Mee Choi
Veterans of Foreign Wars
by Edward Hirsch
War and Hell, XVI [I am a great inventor]
by Ernest Crosby
War Is Kind [excerpt]
by Stephen Crane
War Rug
by Henri Cole
Web Prayer for Milosz
by David Wojahn