The City's Oldest Known Survivor of the Great War

By James Doyle James Doyle
marches in uniform down the traffic stripe
at the center of the street, counts time
to the unseen web that has rearranged
the air around him, his left hand
stiff as a leather strap along his side,
the other saluting right through the decades
as if they weren't there, as if everyone under ninety
were pervasive fog the morning would dispel
in its own good time, as if the high school band
all flapping thighs and cuffs behind him
were as ghostly as the tumbleweed on every road
dead-ended in the present, all the ancient infantry
shoulder right, through a skein of bone, presenting arms
across the drift, nothing but empty graves now
to round off another century,
the sweet honey of the old cadence, the streets
going by at attention, the banners glistening with dew,
the wives and children blowing kisses.

Poem copyright © 2004 by James Doyle and reprinted from the New Orleans Review, Vol. 30, No.2, by permission of the author. His latest book is Einstein Considers a Sand Dune, Steel Toe Books, 2004.

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Poet James Doyle


Subjects Growing Old, Heroes & Patriotism, Living, Social Commentaries

Holidays Memorial Day

Poetic Terms Free Verse


Doyle was born in New York City and grew up in the Bronx. He is the author of Einstein Considers a Sand Dune (2004), winner of the 2003 Steel Toe Books Poetry Prize, and Bending Under the Yellow Police Tapes (2007). Doyle worked in Wisconsin politics and taught before retiring; he lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with this wife, poet Sharon Doyle.

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SUBJECT Growing Old, Heroes & Patriotism, Living, Social Commentaries


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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