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Tattered... Not Torn
by Bill Childers

About ten years ago, when my wife and I were driving somewhere near Las Vegas, I chanced to see this man standing at the entrance onto a freeway, with a bedraggled "Old Glory" flag wrapped around his shoulder...I'm not sure for what purpose.   I spent the next day or so thinking about that man and our very battered 'Old Glory".   The following  poem came from those thoughts.

 

Tattered... Not Torn


He stood there...dirty, haggard, unkempt,
His placard denoting his identity, his need-
A nation's flag he held...in disdain, contempt?
Blatantly urging one to ask his oath, his creed!

One quickly lost sight of the scraggly face,
Ignored the torn, ragged clothes he wore-
For eyes were quickly drawn to the nation's Mace,
Draped, dirty, beaten...proud no more!

This tattered flag had hung tattered before
In countless places, in distant ugly lands-
Its furls have opened over bloody shores,
It's colors diffused in dying sands!

Over Tripoli, Iwo Jima, Inchon, Danang...
In a hundred unknown places it has gone-
Its dismal threads hung as shots rang
In places no man would ever call home.

Oh the names of these men won't be scrolled
On a marbled wall or in honored places-
In loving homes their names are tolled...
There love abounds, remembering their faces.

The flag these recalled, giving themselves,
Was not one hanging in rags, or shreds-
But, one known in life, in living themselves,
O'er troubled waters they became the bread!

P'haps it would tell of a struggling soul,
One long since ceased remembering soggy nights-
Yet, one never having sought a new goal,
One never having accepted freedom's lights.

It might tell of a trouble-laden life,
Never having known release of free thought-
Never having found an escape from daily strife,
Only rewards, results that had to be bought!

Was it really contempt for this tired old flag
That brought him to this place on the road?
Was there really disdain for this dear old flag
That he used to lighten his burden and load?

The question that loomed quickly to the front...
Had this battered flag become a ploy for him?
Had he allowed a need to be created from want?
Had a sense of endeavor long since become dim?

A strangled mind that had never seen this Mace...
Had never before stood straight and tall in pride !
Was the "Response to arms!", all that he'd faced?
Was his life continuing on a 'one-way' ride?

'Tis not fair to configure a decision in haste...
Nor to quickly fashion a direction of his mind...
To hurdle his life into an oblivion of waste...
Erasing any opportunity of a chance to 'find'!

Yet, how like so many seeking life's way,
Reaching out...carefully watching the Golden Ring...
Making certain of not risking 'harm's way',
While expecting the very best life can bring!

Thus a 'tattered life' holds a tattered flag...
Wanting, but not expecting a 'new life' to be born-
Not understanding the survival of this flag...
Lies in its having been tattered...yet...never Torn.

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