When I drafted this poem on August 27, 1996, I wrote it as a tribute to my father, Walter Johnson, who died in 1993. He was an aspiring-but-unfulfilled poet and proud World War II veteran, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge towards the end of the war in Europe.
Dad is buried here at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery–just south of St. Louis, Missouri–alongside thousands of others who served their country and, in many cases, died defending it.
As Memorial Day approaches, I’m posting this to honor Walter and all of the soldiers on the hill, who rest eternally on the banks of the Mississippi River.
I talked with the soldier on the hill today.
We sat, we cried, we laughed, we prayed.
The bells rang true, the trees stood free,
A breeze swept past to welcome me.
Shadows filled the landscape then,
Tempers rose without his pen.
Snowflakes fell, the grass turned green,
All without a change of scene.
Now the soldier rests with them,
Hand in hand–all blessed again.
They greet another trailing soul,
Who makes the journey past the knoll.