Monday's Muse - History, Memory, Poetry

Years ago I managed a cavernous 25 yr old antiques shop. The owner was a retired Air Force Colonel with a passion for collecting. Everyone suspected the shop existed as an excuse for him to stay on the hunt. He would purchase entire estates simply to acquire "that special something." Needless to say, I spent a lot of time plowing through overstuffed dressers & unmarked boxes. The man had (literally) rooms full of items that he had forgotten about. In the "library" under a stack of mouldering magazines from the late 1800s, I found some WWII era photo albums. Most of the photos are only marked with time & place. Very few names. The Colonel didn't recognize them & figured they must be from some random estate sale. For $10 they were mine.

I've no idea who these people are. I believe the original owner is the balding fellow 2nd in from the right as he appears in many of the photos taken across Europe. The photo above is the 1st in the album.

These albums are bursting with pictures of monuments, ruins, cannons, scenery, military parades & picnics. Every few pages there is a similar shot - rows & rows of crosses. Only the date & location changes.

Each Memorial Day I find myself pulling these albums out & paging through. I wonder who these people are. What did they see & think & feel? Are any of them around today and what stories could they tell?

This year, these questions sent me googling. Click on the links below the photos (these were the titles on the original pics) to see what connections I've found. Please keep in mind that these links aren't necessarily associated with the photos, just my own word-association game. (For example, the Mme Pell link connects to a USA WWII propaganda film Salute To France)

Memorial Day for the War Dead
by Yehuda Amichai

Memorial day for the war dead. Add now
the grief of all your losses to their grief,
even of a woman that has left you. Mix
sorrow with sorrow, like time-saving history,
which stacks holiday and sacrifice and mourning
on one day for easy, convenient memory.

Oh, sweet world soaked, like bread,
in sweet milk for the terrible toothless God.
"Behind all this some great happiness is hiding."
No use to weep inside and to scream outside.
Behind all this perhaps some great happiness is hiding.

Memorial day. Bitter salt is dressed up
as a little girl with flowers.
The streets are cordoned off with ropes,
for the marching together of the living and the dead.
Children with a grief not their own march slowly,
like stepping over broken glass.

The flautist's mouth will stay like that for many days.
A dead soldier swims above little heads
with the swimming movements of the dead,
with the ancient error the dead have
about the place of the living water.

A flag loses contact with reality and flies off.
A shopwindow is decorated with
dresses of beautiful women, in blue and white.
And everything in three languages:
Hebrew, Arabic, and Death.

A great and royal animal is dying
all through the night under the jasmine
tree with a constant stare at the world.

A man whose son died in the war walks in the street
like a woman with a dead embryo in her womb.
"Behind all this some great happiness is hiding."


  1. Found these photos and your links absolutely fascinating. And what a wonderful tribute for Memorial Day. You devoted a lot of time to this entry, Stacey. Thanks for sharing!

  2. lovely post and so great on the historical site. YOucould not ask for a better post for memorial day . Happy memorial day

  3. I really enjoyed reading your post. First intriqued by the photos and stories and drawn into the true meaning of Memorial Day that is often overlooked.

    Thank you for sharing this treasure!

  4. The piece by Amichai is a poiqnant work of art...
    ..and the photos...make my eyes water...thank you...

  5. What a beautiful tribute. You have an amazing treasure on your hands, as assume you know that!

    Thanks for sharing this with us. It really, really moved me.

    Linda a/k/a Mamapainter

  6. That he sold you all those photos for $10 is amazing. I bet you thought you got away with something with that transaction! I would've. And how appropriate to share them on Memorial Day.

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  8. Hi Stacey,
    Beautiful Memorial Day tribute! We owe a great deal of "thanks" to so many men and women, God bless them all!

    (I have something for you on my blog, stop by if you get the chance)hugs,