Casualty Notification Officer

We send a starched and solemn officer
up to the decorated door and lock
to give the living news about the dead
with four-sharp-re-ports of a volleyed knock.

Most families understand: they see my car
ease to their curb like unwanted belief,
They see my reluctance and stately pace β€”
yet nearly die themselves of startling grief.

Elsewhere a soldier kicks a family door,
Leading with his muzzle and sharp demands.
He too finds a family reeling back,
resisting his news with panicking hands.

I set aside the Sunday morning news,
listening for birds in the patio heat.
A muffled church bell staggers through the trees β€”
and now some car has found my quiet street.

Published by Raintown Review

Author: Stephen Sossaman

Stephen Sossaman is Professor Emeritus of English at Westfield State University in Massachusetts. He now lives in California. He was an artillery fire direction computer in Viet Nam, serving in the Mekong Delta (1/84th artillery, 9th Infantry Division).

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