My neighbors’ American flag hangs over their porch
and looks so bedraggled I guess they forgot about it,
but she seems to be alone now, we never see him anymore
and she has been mowing the lawn with a push mower.
I wonder if she feels free. She won’t wave to me.
Where I used to live, there’s a garage along the way
with an American flag painted on one of the walls
and when the woman who is now my wife used to visit me,
she’d tell me she had just passed the American flag garage
and I knew then she was only twenty miles away from me.
We pass the garage together now on trips back and forth
to our old house and remember when we were dating.
We still feel free, even with the I do’s and the years.
When I was in the Army, my favorite detail was flag detail.
We would wear dress uniforms and march smartly
to the flagpole in the middle of the fort
in the morning to bugled Reveille and solemnly raise the flag
and then stand at attention and salute it.
At dusk, we would do the reverse to Taps
and carefully fold the flag, not letting it touch the ground.
There, in that center, I was free and proud and tearful.
Whenever I see an American flag at half mast I pause
and pray for whoever that gesture is for,
for it is a powerful act to raise the flag
then lower it halfway, it means something profound.
It’s a signal to all of us to pray for someone we don’t know
or for their families who remain grieving.
The flag gives us the freedom to pray.