ANTIETAM


[A] 150-year-old map depicts the Battle. . .not with the usual scenes of charge and counter-charge, but as one vast cemetery.

                    -- Washington Post (2020)

 

Stretched in ranks

like nervous enfilades

the sunken mounds, square-cornered,

march through cornfields

to the verges of

quiet roads.

 

Here they lay

sprawled by their batteries

on the slopes of breastworks

splatted by long-range artillery

before extraction from shallow

scraped holes for re-burial;

before the

 

soured-milk stench

of blood, loud-swarming bottleflies,

crows picking at eyes and rubbery

innards, were turned to words.  

The day was crisp when Simon

coming after made his map:

high nimbus


cloud formations

sailing past, a brilliant arc

of gray and blue -- indifferent breeze

stirring stubble, dry grass,

black shutters on that ball-pocked

bone-white church

 

the corners

of tacked foolscap while he inked.

He called it “Battle Field,” although

the tiny dark-brown oblongs

that he drew and drew

are wounds in a terrain

that scars us still.




Version first published in The Raven's Perch (Dec. 1, 2020)