This week’s poem, by Janie Gendron, we share in advance of Memorial Day, in homage to our veterans. In “On Tour,” Gendron plays with the meanings of her title words as she recounts a story told to her by a soldier. I love this poem’s full-hearted voice and details, its line breaks that let us linger in multiple meanings, and how beautifully it opens up a space for the complexities of service, trauma and loss.

Gendron is a clinical social worker at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, working with all branches of military. In her practice, she says, “I listen to amazing stories every day and am constantly awed and heartened by the resilience of people I work with. I write poems as I think about their stories.”

 

On Tour

By Janie Gendron

For Jake

 

Because you are soldiers,

because you need to see

what you are fighting for, they take you

to Auschwitz, to tour, they take you

to the last gas chamber, alone,

and shut the door.

So many voices calling, whimpering, bargaining,

praying to a lost god,

and there you are, listening.

You lie down on the ground,

put down your arms, weep,

put down your soul,

and when the door opens, at last,

when the tour is over,

you march back to the light—

blinding, stark—

and you wonder if salvation

is as easy as hospitality, as easy

as opening the door

and letting others through.

 

Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. DEEP WATER: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “On Tour” copyright 2019 by Janie Gendron, appears by permission of the author.


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