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Poetically Yours Ep. 43 - Poet Sums Up The History Of Memorial Day

Provided by Quentin Johnson.

Welcome to this week's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours features poems by northern Illinois poets. The week spotlights one of Aurora's Deputy Poet 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 has 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 and African American Studies. He also lived and studied in Norway receiving a certificate in Sociology, while also studying Norwegian history and literature, psychology and international intelligence agencies.

Johnson says he is a word nerd and loves language. He has studied French, Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Ancient Greek. His choral career included 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 mother tongues, like Persian, Russian, Polish, Gujarati, Korean and Mandarin.

Johnson works as an Animal Control Officer for the City of Aurora. He’s held this position  for over 25 years. He is also a Deputy Poet Laureate for the City of Aurora. Johnson seeks to celebrate the cultural uniqueness of all people and their contributions to the great American melting pot. In his free time, he enjoys being with his wife and kids. You may also find him knitting on occasion.

Today Johnson is honoring veterans with his poem "Decoration Day: Memorial Day Musings."

At the Civil War's end,
Our nation had to mend,         
So many souls that had departed!

General Logan advocated,
Their graves be "decorated",
That's how this holiday started!

With flowers and prayer,
In the spring's freshest air,
May 30th the day to remember!

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

After World War One,
A new tradition had begun,
From McCrae's "In Flanders Field"!

Moina Michael took the lead,
Her campaign would succeed,
The poppy's place 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've passed,
At 3 p.m. let silence hold sway.

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

So on this sacred day,
Let not their memories decay,
Show them out heartfelt appreciation!

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.
Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.