While his morning coffee is brewing,
he shuffles out the door into the yard.
In his hand he carries a flag —
folded neatly into a triangle, the way
he knows. In the first warmth
of the morning sun he attaches it
to the slender metal flagpole on the patio
and raises it slowly, careful
not to let the red and white
stripes touch the ground.
Wrapping the nylon cord around
the cleat, he knots it tightly —
skillfully, from years of practice.

He backs out into the street
halfway across the pavement, but
it is a rural road, winding quietly
through hay fields and horse farms,
and drivers on their morning commute
are accustomed to seeing him here —
this honor guard of one. Standing
straight as his bent frame allows,
he raises his hand to forehead in salute
and lifts his eyes upward to where the flag
lies still against the pole
on this breezeless day,
muttering softly to himself.
Though they call him Josh,
he whispers his son’s full name,
Leroy Joshua Stone.

Koplow, retired English teacher and union organizer, is director of the Sussex county Writers’ Roundtable, Assistant Copy Editor of the Stillwater Review, and the associate editor of the Paulinskill Poetry Project. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, she has poems in the anthology “Voices from Here Volumes 1&2,” Tiferet, Spillway, Edison Literary Review, Wawayanda Review, Exit 13 Magazine, U.S. 1 Worksheets, Journal of New Jersey Poets, and elsewhere.

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