Several months ago, while I was reading all War and soldier books ( see those reviews here ), Sherry Scott began encouraging members of the Paris Poet Society to enter a writing contest that was being sponsored through the Bonham Creative Arts Center. I looked at the paintings of Virgina Dehn and liked them all, but found that one spoke to me in particular. It made me think of death, and soldiers, particuarly our fallen heroes. But the name of that particular piece of art -- "and their names were written on water" also made me think of the survivors, and how your memory of the dead is not what you think it would be, and how angry you feel.
I was reminded of my Grandmother being presented with a folded flag at the funeral of my Grandfather, a World War II Veteran. I was crazy about Grandad, in my big little five year old heart, and that flag made a huge impression on me, the way it was draped over his coffin. I was quite sure that Grandad was just crazy about me, too -- he always gave me attention, took us to parks -- he even took me shopping and let me pick out my very own toy! I picked this really cool clock that played music and treasured it as a memento of him. On the day he died, I remember finding mom in the closet on her knees crying, and being so sad myself because -- although I didn't really know what it meant -- I knew that I would never be able to tell him how much I loved him, even though I had thrown up the soup he made for me last time we saw him, a mere week before at my great-grandmother's funeral. Although it was only a week's difference, I don't recall her funeral at all. But Grandad's funeral made a BIG impression on me, with that unforgettable flag that they finally folded up and handed to my Grandmother.
Flash forward to the first soldier from Paris, Texas in recent years who gave his life in battle. I don't know what his widow felt, but I saw some pictures and can only imagine. I do know that this lovely town that I lived in showed up by the thousands -- thousands -- when they flew him home. We lined the streets from airport to funeral home, waving our flags. This was our authentic response to his sacrifice, even while all around the country other sentiments were being expressed. I will never forget it. (Here is a link to another very PATRIOTIC story about our town).
What would a man like that be like? What would he say to his wife? And how would she feel about it, and about that flag they gave her?
Those are the themes I explored in my writing. Patriotism, love, the ultimate sacrifice, memory, honor, authentic anger. I wrote it, submitted it, and -- frankly -- forgot about it.
I forgot about it until I got a notification that they had selected me as one of the writers who would be published in the small press publication of the art of Virginia Dehn. This month -- April 12, the Creative Art's Center will open it's exhibition of The Ascent, the art of Virginia Dehn, as well as hold the publication party for the release of "Inner Landscapes: Writers Respond to the Art of Virgina Dehn." I'm honestly a bit sad that I can't be there, as that is opening night of "The Vagina Monologues" -- even though I am thrilled to be a part of that. I will find a time to go to the exhibit, and I hope you will too.
I also hope that you will read the anthology, as I love the other poetic and prose responses in the little book. I can honestly say that I am truly honored to be a part of it. The book is filled with authentic responses to Dehn's art by persons from all over the country, with varied backgrounds and ages. They are all quite profound. If you read the book, you will wonder at the creativity and truthfulness of human beings. You will be touched and inspired.