I first saw our flag at half-mast when I was seven—after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
When I returned from Thanksgiving vacation, I could see the flag from my schoolroom window…
When the wind was still and the half-mast flag lay limp against the pole, it was as if the whole country slumped toward the ground…
But even when the wind was brisk and the flag unfurled, the country seemed less than itself: it was shorter, smaller—a nation diminished.
Fifty years later, I experience these same feelings when I see our flag at half-mast. I guess that symbol speaks to all ages.
Once again, the half-mast flag tells me that one person can bring us all down. A single human being can lower millions. How is that possible?
Well, we’re all in this endeavor together. The half-mast flag tells me: the failure of one is the failure of all.
Such tragic bring us together, as hardly any other event can, in these fractious times. Again, we find our truth: we’re all under the same flag.
That sad-looking flag mirrors my grief, which is our grief. That flag at half-mast joins my grief to yours, to everyone’s.
In that way, strange to say, the flag at half-mast gives me some small comfort, some small hope.
© 2012, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry