In vivid splendor, on the fields where the sun shines brilliantly
You make your way to the front, aspiring to greatness
Amid the glory, the gore and the toil comes your salvation
Death is a reality that comes to pass.
You died in battle dress; you’re laid to rest in your Sunday best
But no one saw you as you made your way back, on your last ride home.
No ribbons, no medals of valor
On your last ride home, alone, naked and cold.
If they could see under the black you wore,
The wound, the gray, lifeless form, they would turn away.
At your resting place the flag drapes proudly over the copper coffin.
The salute, the gunfire, is a tribute.
Enemy fire made you a martyr
While the flag is folded in precise order.
The quartermaster hastily bundles the black rubber bags.
On their way to the front,
Your mother weeps as the colors are placed on her
Outstretched, trembling hands.
Another will cry in due time
As her son makes his way home
A journey to be repeated many more times,
By many more sons, wearing the same black you wore
On their last ride home.
Rock Martinez is retired and has been writing for most of his 75 years: poetry and novels and short stories of various genre.