In 2003 I had the privilege of visiting Omaha Beach, Normandy, France. I wrote this narrative poem about my experience there, and I would like to share it in honor of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. My poem is also in memory of American patriots who lost their lives there in service to their country. And for those who survived that day and are still with us today, God bless you for your service!

Normandy, Omaha Beach 2003

I stand on sacred ground.

All around me is silence,

save the endless tidal flow  

of salty, gray waves and foam

sweeping in across the sandy vista

before rushing back to the depths.

Day after day, year after year, they

appear to wash away all signs of history,

as if to cleanse and bring healing in their wake,

though in scattered places

chunks of rusted metal

rise above the water's surface,

defying us to forget.

 

The sky is dark with low, slate-colored clouds.

The air is cold; it permeates my jacket

and chills my skin.

If I listen to the waves,

I may hear the din, the fray,

the anguished voices

drowned, not so much by water ̶   

though some were drowned beneath the waves,

silenced forever, still wearing

their heavy gear and metal weaponry ̶

but the voices of those whose youthful dreams

were met with heavy gunfire and explosions.

 

Heroes who reached the shore in a hail of bullets,

patriots dreaming of home and family

yet offering their lives to a greater cause

despite the uncertainty of lives cut short,

who dared to stand against a relentless foe.

 

I imagine I can hear the shouts, the orders,

the sounds of boots crunching on the sand

wet with saltwater and warm blood.

The sounds of guns fighting back against

unknown faces of strangers lying in wait,

strangers who hated their enemy

though they had never met.

Humanity against humanity,

young men against young men,

running across the sand

into the teeth of artillery,

into the face of their destiny.

 

I linger in silence, listening.

Perhaps if I am still enough,

I might hear echoes of desperate

voices, fighting to survive,

lifting their sorrow-filled prayers.

But, no, I am standing on sacred soil.

My visit to this land

comes many years after.

To hear their desperate voices

would be to intrude.

To listen to the private anguish

of dying young men

who laid down their lives

for their country's freedom

would be my own invasion.

 

I stoop down, scoop up a bit

of wet sand, and pour it into

a plastic bag. No messiness.

It will fit neatly in my suitcase

with my socks and souvenirs.

I decide to pick up a random

pebble lying on the beach.

It will rest with my sand

in a glass bottle on a shelf

when I return home.

The sand will remind me

of the shifting tides,

the vagaries of life,

but the pebble—

the pebble will remind me

of the constancy

and bravery of the human spirit,

of those who stood firm

against the menace of the enemy,

against their own fears of mortality.

 

I slip my bag of sand into my purse.

I push my cold hand into my pocket.

I hold the smooth pebble in my fingers

and feel its weight drop into the fabric.

I must not listen for the voices.

They would be a burden too great to bear.

I will return to my home across the

waters of the Atlantic soon enough.

 

I look around me once again

to gaze at the quiet ocean shore

that once was not so quiet at all.

As I walk away from this sacred place,

I hear only one voice—

a low, whispering voice.

It is mine.

It is a prayer of thanksgiving.

Carroll S. Taylor

 

 

 

 

 

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