Kinds of Dignity
 
1. A Parade:
 
  Once in his life
  the veteran had a chance to do a thing
  remote from termites, drains and fences —  
  a chance to be on all the proper sides  
  of God, of nation, of women.
 
No matter if he fought valiantly,
  no matter if he mended canteens
  five miles behind the front;
  he is now, seven decades later,
  in his khaki cap and ribbons,
  more than a clerk, a plumber;
  he is instead Cincinnatus retired.
 
2. A National Geographic Film:
 
   A huge crocodile
  lunges out of a pond
  and seizes a baby baboon,
  whereupon it is attacked so fiercely
  by another baboon, a male,
  that it is forced to drop the baby
  and scuttle back to the pond.
 
  But the baby is slain.
 
  The mother holds it a moment,
  then places it gently on the ground
  and walks away.
 
  No medals are distributed,
  no grief counselors summoned.

(2004)

free. character sketch

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