Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Sunset of Valor

Copyright 2009

Sheets of yellow flame issue
from a thousand rifled muskets
as the blue ranks pour fire through the trees.
The vines and low limbs jerk and twist
under the hail of lead.
The ragged, butternut line shivers and recoils like a single being,
and then recovers and blazes back in furious answer.

In this wilderness battle
the winners and the losers
are one and the same
as death grins darkly
from the shadows
with the fall of each farm boy
face down to the damp earth

as if striving for that final resting place
seeking the comfort of cool soil
solace from this hell on earth
where smoke and flame
consume the body
consume the hope

A boy of sixteen loads his musket
face black from powder
hands shaking
stomach clenching with hunger
and the feasting of lice completes his orgy of suffering
in a dank tangle of rotting forest
where death makes himself at home
and the blue and the gray
mourn their lives
and cleave to death
where to live is to suffer
and to hope presages
the most piteous despair.

The dark presence welcomes each one
his arms open wide
the unexpected friend.

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