Sunday, 14 August 2011

The rain threw it­self upon
the white cot­ton tents and rolled
off, drops heaved in soil to
a rich mud smoth­er­ing woodsmoke
from the fires of men in full
wool. Up since 6am reveille,
both blue and grey
drilled in mist and driz­zle.

The dirt track be­came a mud
river, whether horse dung or peach pie
all scents in­haled by this tor­rent 
of breath­ing earth. Thunder crash over
fife prac­tice, women in hoop skirts try
to strike light from acrid
lamp oil. Hiding from the bat­tle
be­tween cloud and ground while
the rain mut­ters on.

     And here, the time for
reen­act­ment. The re-bat­tle
be­tween broth­ers, the memo­rial
to the torn heart of lib­erty:
     bel­lum, re­bel­lion.
To re­mem­ber Antietam, Bull Run, Manassas.
The wrestling over America for…

     The war.
The mock­ery made of storm by men who hid 
from the real thing.

     And now, as
the skies clear, amid
sul­fur, gun­smoke, ripen­ing
ap­ples, these other men tramp across
heavy tus­socks, falling to fire,
call­ing out or­ders
to re­mind us of what we think
this war was about. At least,

the hoots from grey-jack­eted
Ohioans fill the hollers
and Old Glory re­treats be­hind
a barn.

     And though, to­day the South
     we’ll re­turn next year
to watch the cav­alry gal­lop,
to re­mem­ber the scent of 
tram­pled mint.