Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Gettysburg, July 5, 1863

And still they come
mothers and daughters
disconsolate sisters
lovers condemned by moira
to lives of
unbroken spinsterhood

Still they come
carrying armloads of lilacs
burying grief-ravaged faces
in bouquets of hyacinth and fading rosebuds
breathing deeply
as if to obliterate
the stench of death
while the image remains
Still they come
weeping weaving
sleepwalkers in shock
their dreams
lie dead upon the field
yesterday's bride looks on her beloved
covers her womb
hands unconsciously protecting
her unborn son
from the monstrosity
that would have been his father
can even heaven rejoin
this unholy mess?
Still they come
ears attuned only to the wind
listening for last words
scattered unheard
blistered hands dig through
pockets and dirt
search for memento mori
a blood-stained letter, “My Dearest”
a comb
a scrap of a hymn “Are You Ready?“
desperate hands
dig into hecatomb
seeking only assurance
that their heroes have died
a good death.

(Image: Confederate dead gathered at the edge of Rose Woods for burial, Gettysburg battlefield, July 5, 1863, by Timothy H. O'Sullivan)