poetry Abe & Jack, Milt, Moe, Dave...
Abe & Jack, Milt, Moe, Dave…
By Peter Neil Carroll
They were not my family. They distrusted
strangers. I could only approach them slowly,
these Americans who had volunteered
to fight fascists in the Spanish Civil War.
They lost, bad guys won—they bore failure
like primal sin or first love that comes and
goes, never leaves. In their homes they kept
fetishes—Guernica prints, Spanish brandy.
Their loyalties were born of danger and death.
They invited me not eagerly, but lacking
choice, if they wished to outlive themselves.
Each craved to be last of the Lincoln Brigade.
I became expert at funerals and obituaries. Death
beds I avoided but sometimes compassion exceeded
common sense. I cared for them, for Abe & Jack,
Milt, Moe, Dave, Eddie, Marian, the three Bills.
I miss them. They were history, they were legend.
Their example led me to enter intimately into life’s
calamities—to seek a role, a small role, or merely
the hope of a role—to speak against injustice.
Not victory but the promise amplified their cause,
living with purpose. Without their voices now,
it takes arrogance for me to claim a historic role,
though silence means insignificance, defeat.
Peter Neil Carroll has written widely about the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, including poetry in his sixth collection: Something is Bound to Break (Main Street Rag). He is also the author of The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade: Americans in the Spanish Civil War (Stanford).