While walking through a national graveyard, well-kept and so preserved;
I asked myself “Why?”
Was desecration I spied?
And closer I went to observe —
An old man, feeble with age, with a handful of coins in his fist?
Stopping to place
A coin on each face,
Of the graves in the morning’s mist.
Quietly, I watched him, put a coin — no two — on another;
He asked, “How would you know?
You were too young to go!”
(Was he talking to me or “his brother?”)
“A splatter of coins ‘pon a flat grave, to you, must be disrespectful;
“But each little token
Leaves a message unspoken,
“‘tween dead heroes and visitors grateful.”
He faced me as I slowly approached him, his face weather-beaten and tired;
“I was your age, I’d guess
When I left my girl Bess,”
Then his words trailed off to retire
I looked o’er the graves he left and noticed not one but three;
Straight in a line
A penny, nickel and dime,
And wondered just what each would be.
“Each penny declares just a visit,” he said, “to a grave regardless of weather;
“And each nickel will tell
A different story as well:
“As boot camp we went through together!
“Now, a dime means we served a posting for a couple of years,” he cried;
“But, if it is there
“Two-bits is more rare,
“It means I was there when he died.”