- by Richard-Yves Sitoski

Think of What This Means (Remembrance Day, 2021)

My grandfather came to a new country
that had new habits and few wars.
He came from an old country
that had old habits and many wars.
Think of what this means.

In childhood my grandfather was a stableboy
to the Prussian army. In adulthood
he lived as a citizen of Russia. He could do
both without once leaving his house in Poland.
Think of what this means.

My grandfather did leave his house.
He spent his adolescence in old places with old habits
and old wars. He could do this without once
hearing abstract terms like “democracy”.
Think of what this means.

My grandfather lived in his old country
through the First World War, which started
as an old war in another old country until
it became a new war involving new countries.
Think of what this means.

I do not ask you to think of what these things mean
because my grandfather is the subject
of the poem. He is not. I ask you because
the subject of the poem is those who came
from the new countries to the old countries.

People who fought so your citizenship doesn’t change
though you never once leave your house.
People who fought so that “democracy”
is a concrete term we’ve all heard of.
Think of what this means.

Because of them we stand together
on a cold day each November
in a city that has not known war,
remembering its citizens who have.
Think of what this means.

Let us reflect on those who died trying
to break our oldest habits. Let us reflect
on them mindfully, consciously, nor let us
give in to the habit of forgetting.
Think of what that would mean.

painting by Andrée Levie-Warrilow, shared with the generous permission of the artist




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