Twirlybirds, mylar windmills on wooden sticks,
call them pinwheels, what you will,
nothing of my childhood remains
except a mild quivering of fingers,
a peripheral flicker of silver
against sere heat moving
with the ever-present wind.
In the now, twice I've led friends
from afar to this place of wall and tombstone.
It guards the stretch of miles and miles below.
There mystery beats down on us
as surely as the sun.
We clatter over the metal ladder
into the walled, segregated section
for Italian and German war prisoners.
We read the worn-away lives etched in stone.
Years earlier, George and I discovered
a pinwheel pointlessly spinning
on the grave of a child who died in 1928.
On this return, bringing others,
the story battered about among us.
With a hurried stop at WalMart,
we arrived bearing our tinselly prize,
a gift we wished to bestow
on some worthy warrior resting there.
The ground was too packed to accept
the offering for our first-choice honoree,
so a buffalo soldier's shady grave
was festooned, he chosen only
for the give of the soil above him.
Everything there knits up distance,
twirls around and off into as far as we can see.
We have come to an earth that speaks,
and we reply with this small, glittery salute.