Civil War Poems 2




Antietam, The Night Before


They sat around fires the night before
being prodded to their finest hours
by figures they saw
on orange tongues of dancing desire
thrusting flickering forks at their secure dens
of cowardice and fear,
and they revelled in that seduction.

Until weakness would curl in over them
in the silent lulls in between
when their boldest affirmations would be buried
in tides of dark portents as to the morrow:
the lines breaking,
the flash of bayonets against September sun,
the swish of flags,
themselves crashing headlong or crumpled,
on moistened soil
while all around them the pounding of hooves
the thunder of cannon
the screaming of men crescendoing,
and then the slow cessation of sound.



. . . The hunger for battle, then the slow realization of fear . . .