May 28, 2006
Private William Christman
was the first one
we laid down
Now there are a
in that hallowed ground
and caissons roll
two dozen times a day
At that rate
in fifteen years,
there’ll be no place to lay,
As you can imagine, there are many funerals and cemeteries in the visual press today.
I was drawn to a video feature on the nyt.com home page titled “Finite Arlington.” The piece is narrated by Andrew C. Revkin, a Times science reporter with a love of music. It shows scenes of the great war cemetery accompanied by a song called “Arlington.” Written and composed by Mr. Revkin, it highlights the headstone of the first soldier buried there — Private William Christman in 1864. It also touches on rituals of the place, and soldiers from other eras. Mostly though, it ponders one affecting question: what will happen when Arlington is finally full? (This “eventuality” is projected sometime around 2020.)
I am sorry for every man and woman who has died in war, and profoundly sorry for those who gave their lives in the current one. What frames this Memorial Day so well is the video’s final impression. It shows one gravestone so old its space is in contention with a tree. Poetically and fittingly, the soldier’s name was Pride.
Especially now, these are fateful metaphors: Running out of room for losses — and swallowing pride.
Update 5/29/06 10:05 pm PST: By popular demand, music and lyrics to Arlington are right here.
(NY Times video. Written/Composed by Andrew C. Revkin. Producer: Craig Duff. Performed by Uncle Wade.)