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.