I wrote this poem for Remembrance Day (Canada’s Veteran’s Day) when I was in third grade. I was very proud of it: I was asked to read it at that year’s Remembrance Day assembly in my elementary school, and I was the youngest of the students up on stage. I can’t remember much about the reading, only that my heart was pounding and that when everyone bowed their heads for the moment of silence I peeked out from under my bangs and watched to see who in the gymnasium full of kids was picking their nose or poking their neighbor and from my vantage point on the stage felt giddy with the sort of puffed-up childish superiority that only small children on gymnasium stages and politicians can muster. Which is not the point of Remembrance Day, but still. It was a silly poem, I thought once I’d grown and moved on to the angst-ridden tumult of free verse, a silly poem full of all the earnestness and dryness and commitment to basic rhyme schemes that is characteristic of small children with literary ambitions.
I had forgotten about this poem, mostly, until I found it in my father’s effects a few months ago. I’d forgotten that he’d typed it up for me on his Commodore PET and printed it out and framed it and kept it hanging where everyone could see it for as long as we had a family home. And then, when we no longer had a family home, when everything had fallen apart and we all lived apart and I’d forgotten about my silly old poem, he still kept it, in his bedroom, where he could see it, framed, on a shelf, beside all the pictures of his grandchildren and of my sister and my mom and me. That he so loved this silly old poem makes my heart swell and break all at once. That he so loved this poem reminds me that it is not so silly.
That he so loved this poem reminds me that the greatest act of remembrance is to encourage it and nurture it and treasure it in your children.
Tonight, Emilia and Jasper and I will be talking about poems and poppies and remembering. I’m not sure how I’ll do that, yet – how do you talk to small children about death in war without terrifying them? But perhaps we’ll start by adding a little poppy to Grandpa’s bardo home so that we can share the remembering with him, too.