In Memory of Major Marie Rossi-Cayton by Peter Mladinic

In Memory of Major Marie Rossi-Cayton

Peter Mladinic

You love a beautiful sky.
She did too, the first American woman
to die in the Persian Gulf War.
She wasn’t in combat when her Chinook
went down. I think of her bravery, sacrifice,
honor we bestow on those with no hands
to hold it, as if it were a folded flag.
She was unborn

when I was in fourth grade.
Her brother sat up front, wore the white shirt
green tie I wore, the girls green jumpers.
She too loved the sky
with a love that got her to be part of war.
I stood in a corner a half hour up front,
I faced the wall.
I was ordered there and obeyed.

You’re a girl who loves a beautiful sky.
One morning I sat in your father’s office
and he, the Dean of Students suggested
I apologize to students
for having lost my temper in class.
I don’t recall my exact words, they
wouldn’t be quiet. I used the F word,
up front, beside myself.

Your dad didn’t mandate, but clearly said
an apology was in order. He said it
in a nice way, understood my side,
which didn’t excuse my out of control.
I did a few things wrong back then,
but I went back to class and apologized.
What became of the brother of the pilot
I don’t know, but his younger sister’s story
is part of his town’s, also our nation’s.

I barely knew you that day I sat across your
dad’s desk. He listened well. I recall my
silence that half hour in the corner,
the teacher’s Roman nose, the brother
a round teddy bear of a boy in a white shirt,
a green necktie. Major Rossi-Cayton
smiles in her uniform of death.

About the Author

Peter Mladinic’s fifth book of poems, Voices from the Past, is due out in November 2023 from Better Than Starbucks Publications. An animal rights advocate, he lives in Hobbs, New Mexico, USA.