Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day At Grace Cathedral

We attended  the Thirtieth Annual Royal British Legion Service of Remembrance, a memorial service in honor of the fallen veterans of WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars—I & II. Many members of the San Francisco Caledonian Club gave moving speeches including SFCC Chief Alan Purves and decorated WWII war heroes Danny Mander, Patrick Sweetman, MBE. Danny Mander talked from the top of his head, and it was pure poetry in the oral tradition. I didn't think to write it down in time.

I didn't know most of the Episcopalian hymns, but Amazing Grace on the bagpipes never sounded so lovely in the cathedral nave.

Cribnotes for a poem:
(I waited too long to type them up and now the emotional charge is gone. If I find the thread again, then I'll work on this.)

On the eleventh month,
on the eleventh day,
and at the eleventh hour
we will remember Armistice Day
we will remember
In Flanders Field
at the Western Front
the soldier who went mad after seven days
they made him stay ten
a Canadian surgeon
spent 17 days at the front
the horror, the horror
Wilfred Owen
living with that fragility

dulce et decorum est

age shall not weary them
they planted poppies
so that blood will bloom again

we suffer from spiritual amnesia:
we romanticise
we sentimentalize
then we demonize
and latinize ad infinitum

I remember the mass graves of Verdun
red poppies swooned in the breeze

at the front, soldiers went mad
too long at the front was insanity
"wastage" was 400 a day
we are the dead
we are the dead
friendly fire 
at the going down of the sun

the army of the dead
honor  no borders
the army of the fallen
salute no nationality other than death
they shall not grow old as we grow old
we grow old, we grow old
yet we live as they cannot

et lux perpetua
fili me, fili me domine

the wasteland
the horror
for all your tomorrows
they gave up their past

"Me thinks I should know you," said King Lear...

oh the dreadful wind and rain
sang the daughters of Lear
at the going down of the sun

during the Last Post
notes met mid air,
clashed and reverberated off the walls
they became the clash and din of the battlefield
this remembrance is about us
it is for us, the living and the dead
a call to be alive, to be fully alive

today there are only five living survivors of WWI
they are 108 to 115 years of age
another died last Tuesday
soon living memory will pass into oblivion 
and onto the pages of history
the Reveille sounded by the bugler
and the poppies shall fall

At the end of the service 
red poppy petals flurried down from the nave 
to cover the altar steps with a red snow
and still we send troops to Iraq.

From Veteran's Memorial 2008

Sunset (and moonrise) over City Hall was a showstopper.
From Veteran's Memorial 2008

Afterwards, we went over to the Herbst War Memorial Theater and had a bit of a do with Danny Mander singing war songs joined by Neil O'Neill on the guitar. We let the rafters ring.

One thing I learned is to not try to keep up with the British Legion when it comes to drinking. Neil said that the British Legions was formed as a drinking club for ex servicemen. Now I understand.

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