In my office at the university, another day
of grading student papers and catching up
with emails, when I hear the dreadful beat
of a funeral drum: three thunderous raps
like the last heartbeats of some dying giant.
From somewhere, the sound of taps
begins playing and I remember the last time
I heard it—that bright, cold day
in April, in Illinois, as we lay Philip
next to Robert, two plots down from Kent,
each gravestone bearing the name
of a different war. I remember what day it is.
I remember my brothers, the three of them
lying close now in cold sleep as they did
as children on winter nights in a chill house,
back when their address was the same.
As it is now: Second Avenue, Knoxville
Cemetery, as if the dead need an FPO.
Outside my office window I see the flag
and the crowd, many dressed in black.
Their heads are bowed. I press my face
against the glass and weep. Sobbing
the bagpipe begins to play “Amazing Grace,”
emptying itself again and again and again.