The Man Says Kent State Means Something Different to his Generation

If not for the field that housed early spring
snowball fights, that cradled lonely skin
with its wet grass-lick;
if not for the breeze that rocked hammock
after hammock drowsy between the trees;
if not for the dirt that dipped to the weight
of the bell; if not for the bell;
if not for the asphalt above
lined with white paint and baked from wink
of May; if not for the short-cut to class,
the feet pressing slow, then quick, then
snare-drum flicking, then wondering the sound
of blood when it fills the ears,
how young iron cools the finger,
how to load and unload a stomach—the stomach
so hollow, someone said, as the boy
dropped to the ground in the middle
of a parking space.

If not for the field as quiet as vein,
as lonesome as a petal beneath the earlobe;
if not for the lot dusted in shadow,
the smooth stones and posts of light climbing high
like corn stalks or upturned lungs;
if not for the field that still cries between pieces of wind,
then maybe this would not embody ourselves.

We walk through winter with ghosts
on our backs. We walk with bare feet, and our skin sheds
like an unlived memory. We listen when the goldfinch
beats its wings. We listen when the river
coughs up bone.

We were not there, but we are here,
digging palms into snow, leaves, daffodils,
digging so the grave is never covered, so the stench
of felled bodies is as permanent as paralysis,
everlasting as death.

We dig to remember the lives once
as young as ours. New lives that still grow
in this field as grass does, remembering
with every passing year. Each and every
passing year.

Winner of Wick Poetry Center's 2020 Peace Poem contest. © Carrie George. Published by the Academy of American Poets on January 28, 2020.