Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Memorial Day for Carlyle

William W. Fraker

Killed by mortar fire before he was twenty,
Carlyle’s remains may mingle with those of his fellows
From Company C in a Belgium cemetery
Among unidentified American soldiers or lie still
Where he fell in 1944 just inside Germany.
Within two weeks that October, the 9th Infantry
Suffered 4,500 casualties in a dense forest
South of the birthplace of Charlemagne;
An engagement studied by historians of dubious
Conflicts. The lethal barrage, retaliation for capturing
A pillbox, left barely a third of the Company alive.

For years on Memorial Day, Carlyle’s siblings
Gathered at Memorial Hospital or the Virginia War Memorial
To remind themselves and their children of Carlyle’s name
In granite; blending the beginning of summer
With fried chicken, potato salad and unrestrained tears.

Pooled grief for fifty plus years can stir whispers
Of coincidence to a receptive niece, born several
Years after Carlyle’s death. Embarkations
Into early morning research lead to official veteran
Records, DNA sample collections, and email
To military forensic groups. She foresees his burial
In Arlington. Carlyle must want to come home.

Reaching across generations, shards of his sacrifice
Surface one fragment at a time. Disinterment
Back to Virginia may offer formal comfort
Through tangible brokenness draped in a flag;
His final gift of unselfishness: to honor
The love of now aging sisters he never forgot.


William Fraker has recently published poetry in The Witness magazine and both poetry and a short story in Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal. He has two poems published in the book Muscadine Lines: A Southern Anthology. Fraker has taught at Duke University and Virginia Commonwealth University. He lives on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia.

© William W. Fraker

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012