Lost and Found
The side of a highway in September,
ankle-high grass brushed with dew,
and we are in the second mile of our walk,
Two cold men, volunteers with a thankless duty,
collecting trash along the roadway.
Lugging our mostly full shoulder-slung bags,
the risen sun at our backs,
we discover that someone lost a flag –
a miniature American flag,
maybe six inches wide and four tall,
attached with staples to a thin wooden stick.
Every item found had, until this point,
faced the same destiny –
to be gripped by our dampened yellow gloves,
then plunked into the pitiless blue bags.
But now this.
My partner in sanitation,
a short and muscled man with graying
strands sneaking from below his cap,
looked at it for a moment,
waving it a little in his hands
then continued along the shoulder
holding the patriotic emblem
between the fingers of his bag-laden hand
as we proceeded with our cleanup.
It was a cumbersome job,
or at least seemed to be,
to watch him keep the flag at full staff
while still reaching for trashy bits in the grass.
A few hundred yards later, where we paused
to tie our bags and unsettle new ones,
my companion in this lonesome job
without a word crossed the ditch and worked the flag stick
between the taut tentacles of a barbed wire fence.
Standing back, we watched the banner,
the tiny emblem of our freedom and nation,
ruffling in a morning zephyr of the plains.
Chins upheld, indivisible, we stood in reverence.
A sigh, cleared throat, the unfurling of new bags,
and we bent again to our labor.