17 September 2012

Antietam: Five Fragments

The self-proclaimed world’s leading living authority on “everything Antietam” lived at the old Walter Reed. On my last visit, he slipped me this small sheaf of handwritten/typewritten papers from his massive stack of torn sheets from various books. “It’s pronounced with four syllables. Try it. Aunt, tea, et, tam.”
He grinned his disarming grin. “It rhymes with my war, you know. See what you think of my poem.” The legible portions are presented below:

It’s a strange way
to harvest corn.
Shot and shell and
calvary charge (cavalry?) hah!

Pa, I want you to have me a pair of boots made.
Those shoes you had made for me ripped all to pieces.
I have got the suit on that you sent me.
If I had a good pair of boots I would be the best
clothed man in the regiment.
I have nothing more for my paper is scarce.
Write soon to your only son.

for as far as the eye could reach
was the glitter of the swaying
points of the yankee bayonets
we camped under the apple trees
finally had something to eat

Dear Wife,
I dreamed of home night before last.
Saw you at the window and you kissed me.
Is that not quite a soldier’s dream?
In this letter I send you a bit of gold lace
such as the officers have.
This I cut from a rebel officer's coat
on the battlefield. He was a Lieut.
Yours as ever. Do write soon.

just the names themselves are stark (brutal/brilliant)
enough, not to mention
the sawn bones and the blood-run creek

Dunker Church, and if you guessed Baptist
you’d be right

Sunken Road, and if you wagered bloodbath or
Bloody Lane
you’d be right again, right as rain from the night before

Rohrbach Bridge over the Red Sea, (rohr=reed, pipe/bach=creek)
but here, unlike the Bible, it is literally true, you see
the water ran red with reunion blood

the dainty poets speak of tea and jam
but Antietam whispers another name,
this one with three syllables
pronounce it An-ti-et-am, and you will hear it
faintly, as from a shell

Tuesday 4:04 a.m.

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