Two security guards in matching navy blue
polo shirts walked through the automatic doors,
keys jingling on their black belts. Crossing
the driveway of the hospital, they chatted.
With one foot on the sidewalk and the other in the road,
the gray bearded one waved his hands as he talked.
The other, an Asian woman, smiled and added a few words.
Thinking that they were taking cigarette break,
I was surprised to see them stop at the parallel flagpoles
and look up. Each unwound the rope, and hand over hand
lowered the state and United States flags in unison,
metal grommets clanking against the poles. When the flags
reached chest height, they unhooked them and laid
them on a bench, moving silently, with reverence and respect.
The woman shook the Pennsylvania flag and the man took
one end. They deftly folded it in half. She made a triangle
at her end, turning it over and over, gathering material,
until she reached him. He picked up the American flag
and they did the same ritual, folding the red, white and blue
until he held a puffy cloth triangle. It was the same flag
ceremony that I learned at scout camp when I was twelve.
They carried those cloth triangle babies back into the hospital,
as the doctors, residents and nurses hurried out to their cars.
© 2011 Kim King