Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Pearl Harbor: USS Oklahoma” by Terri Lynn Cummings. A brief biography of Ms. Cummings may be found here: http://eretzsongs.blogspot.com/2015/11/poem-of-day-starving-artist-by-terri.html.
Pearl Harbor: USS Oklahoma
Terri Lynn Cummings
For the Parents of the Fallen
The first thing we saw when we walked
into the Pearl Harbor WWII Memorial
were granite markers. They stood at attention,
etched with the names and ranks of 429 marines
and sailors who had served aboard the USS Oklahoma.
Surrounded by tourists with cameras, we paused
at the names of three brothers,
Leroy, Malcolm, and Randolph Barber,
lost in the battleship’s belly. My husband and I
imagined their parents when they heard the knock,
opened the door, and saw two sergeants standing
on the stoop, bearing the news.
Our own wounds bloomed like a rose
when we remembered our son had recently died,
a 15-year veteran of disease – not soldier,
but a fighter. When a child is lost,
time freezes into shards of memories –
the last time you saw him, your final words,
unspoken thoughts. Like all parents,
we expected to go first, but instead, we buried
our son. Placed flowers on a lonely grave.
Poet’s Notes: Sometimes, imagination is a curse or a blessing. In writing this poem, imagination was a blessing. Two months before my husband and I visited Pearl Harbor, our son had passed away in Oklahoma City. We did not expect to walk through the Oklahoma Memorial the moment we arrived. Yet it seemed appropriate. In mourning, we read the victims’ names and bled for them, their families, and ourselves.
Editor’s Note: I am moved by the way the prosaic first part of the poem melts into the poetic as the poet ties the loss of the Oklahoma to the loss of her boy.