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,
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.