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Appomattox, Civil War, George Washington, Robert E. Lee, Uncategorized, Virginia

A Poem About Lee’s Surrender at Appomattox by Mark Walston, Appearing in the Baltimore Review

baltimore_review_1997sum

 

Appomattox Surrender

1865

 

Wandering carnage at twilight

General Lee espied General Washington

surveying, engorged on war

now engaged in discourse melancholy

for their commonwealth.

 

By bodies boating

fell talk of pride and valor

the price of tobacco

the cost of life

banquettes and lunettes

demi-lunes and barbettes –

vive la France –

sometimes you must give up

ground to gain ground,

interchangeable cogs

hammered on the anvil of Mars.

 

Are my slaves well?

We fight for benevolence,

democracies care for even those

who know not they need it most.

 

How is my Virginia?

Cruciform dogwood petals blush

blood red berries splitting

wafting mountain laurel blue ridge

rambling scarlet cardinal

resplendent by his dingy partner

protect this grandeur, my land.

 

This is you land no longer

the despot’s heel is at the door

long knives unsheathed

the wheat beheaded

chaff despoiling kernels,

bearded corn regiments

shorn to rotting silage

for brutish rooters.

 

Our land ruled by the planter’s geometry

now flowering delight sunward

we have hung together

longer than anyone expected

have endured more

horrific Virginia reels

to the tattoo of sabers

gashing descending stars,

clung together grasping

waterfalls in empty fists

pummeling old ways dashed

on a stony resolve

to rid us from us forever..

 

And how goes Martha?

Do gentlefolk speak fondly

of her at tea, Mount Vernon

shimmer still in the southern sun?

I know the ways of death

but prefer to dwell on the living,

apricot marmalade biscuits

whiskey cascades pigeon pie

bellies distended not by overdue burials

or blown-off jaws telling half truths

of parapet gunners

overlooking the obvious.

By happy while alive

because death lasts forever.

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About markwalston

Writer, historian, creative director, poet, playwright, author of nine books and nearly 200 essays and articles exploring a broad range of American social, cultural and historical topics.

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