On Sacrifice and Honor – “What About” by MRB Chelko

Dear Third Coast Readers,

With Memorial Day approaching on Monday, May 27th, I’ve found myself caught up in thoughts about sacrifice and honor. Not all of society supports the various angles of the military, but I think we can all agree that there is honor in fighting for what one believes in, especially if the cause is noble. Even devout pacifists find alternative ways to stand up for their principles, such as peaceful protests or debates.

Whether the military is ethical or not isn’t the question of Memorial Day. Instead, it invites reflection on our choices and values while honoring those who were brave enough to sacrifice their lives for what they believed in. What would you give up for the chance to spend another day with someone you loved and lost? What comfort item would you forego in order to support an organization you resonate with? What about a healthier lifestyle? Are there any people or causes that you would give your life for?

Today’s poem by MRB Chelko from Issue 48 utilizes careful imagery as a reminder to consider the areas of life that inspire us, giving us joy and passion, from things or feelings that we may take for granted. While the means to obtain freedom, love, happiness, or a better life can be judged in positive or negative ways, there is more honor in passion than passivity.

— Logen Crandall, Editorial Intern

What About

summer? Flies alight in the fruit bowl? A good blue cheese?

What about the body? Tight with post-swim wind? In a towel?

A bath? With crystals?

What about New Mexico? (Its lizards like squirrels?) (Sparse trees like ghosts of buffalo?) Or this place? It’s amazing parallel park jobs? Swift maneuvers? Car-fulls of praise?

What about in-season anything? Taut, edge-ripe tomatoes?

Vines in the chain-link? Lush, probing braids?

What about fades? In haircuts? And songs?

And salt? (The way elephants pilgrim to lick it?)

What about calling it fucking and fucking loving it? (That ex who shows up sometimes?) (His bike in your driveway?) (The twine of his arms?)

And arms? Just having them? At least one? To not be a worm?

What about Rome? Piazza boys pressed to some blondies? The way clouds grope a dome?

And grapes? Sliced in quarters? On some toddler’s tray?

What about mothers?

And swallowing mint leaves with water?

And trees? (Aren’t they cities?)

((Just all of it?))


The fat cooking down? Stumbling down the hall? That aroma?

MRB Chelko is the author of several chapbooks including Songs & Yes (2016) and Manhattations (2014), which was selected by Mary Ruefle for a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship. Chelko’s publications include Bennington Review, Black Warrior Review, Cincinnati Review, Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, and Poetry International. She teaches in the low-residency MFA program of the New Hampshire Institute of Art and lives in New York City.