Poetically yours Ep. 43 – The poet sums up the history of Memorial Day

Welcome to this week’s Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours features poems by poets from northern Illinois. The week highlights one of Aurora poet’s assistant laureates, Quentin Johnson.

Johnson was born in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea to missionary parents. He grew up in the Midwest, living in Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Michigan. He lived most of his life in Illinois, having resided in Metropolis, Ashkum, Oak Park and Aurora.

Johnson graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa with degrees in Scandinavian Studies and African American and African American Studies. He also lived and studied in Norway with a certificate in sociology, while studying Norwegian history and literature, psychology and international intelligence agencies.

Johnson says he’s a word nerd and loves the language. He studied French, Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Ancient Greek. Her choral career includes additional work in Latin, Italian and German. When working with non-native English speakers, Johnson breaks the ice by asking people to teach him words in their native languages, such as Persian, Russian, Polish, Gujarati, Korean, and Mandarin.

Johnson works as an animal control officer for the town of Aurora. He held this position for over 25 years. He is also Deputy Poet Laureate for the City of Aurora. Johnson seeks to celebrate the uniqueness of all people’s culture and their contributions to the great American melting pot. In his free time he enjoys being with his wife and children. You can also find him knitting on occasion.

Today Johnson pays homage to veterans with his poem “Decoration Day: Memorial Day Musings”.

At the end of the civil war,
Our nation had to mend,
So many souls who were gone!

General Logan advocated,
Their graves are “decorated”,
This is how the vacation started!

With flowers and prayers,
In the cooler spring air,
May 30, unforgettable day!

For friends and family,
A pastoral homily,
Kept warm, the embers of their memories!

After the first world war,
A new tradition had started,
From McCrae’s “In Flanders Field”!

Moina Michael took the lead,
His campaign would succeed,
The place of the poppy in remembrance was sealed!

In 1968,
Federal law changed the date,
Now the last Monday in May!

Fly the flag at half mast,
For our warriors who have passed,
At 3 p.m., may silence reign.

American soldiers by the score,
Have fallen in war,
In the service of our beloved nation.

So on this holy day,
May their memories not fade,
Show them sincere appreciation!

  • Yvonne Boose is currently a staff member of Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It is a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can read more about Report for America at wnij.org.

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