two days ago i sat in the subway station

at 110th and broadway,

the tile letters, olive green, spelled out


that church's spires cast long shadows

even in the rain.

forty years ago you saw a brawl

break out here

and didn't stop it.

if my grandfather were alive,

he would be the same age as you.

at eighteen he joined the navy,

skin strapped to the blistered wet decks

of pacific ocean liners.

he learned his name and

came back battered.

while your wife cupped loving palms

around her shapely rose-blooms,

my grandmother

squinted at tiny airmail type,

caressed the graphite edges of her brother's script

and two years later

collected his obituaries.

i was born into a generation that is not great

like yours and theirs.

we have no patriot idols, no flag at iwo jima.

instead we have the orange skies of Baghdad on CNN

and the faces, cloaked and covered

of the tortured.