Greetings from Manhattan. In almost every town and city of the country, one can see a Civil War monument, usually with a lone soldier in uniform at the top, his rifle by his side. Now, one hundred and fifty years after the end of that war, many of these statues show signs of deterioration from long exposure to the elements. Here, for Memorial Day, is the poem “Statue in the Park,” from my 2008 collection, Father of Water.
Gen. G. K. Warren, Union Army. Standing on Little Round Top at Gettysburg National Park. Official Park photo.
Statue in the Park
The stone hero is becoming mortal again.
Ordinary weather has undone the work
of Civil War. Sun and cold, rain and snow
strike his head, as brothers once struck
each other, in a climate beyond season.
Below the folds of his coat, two lovers
walk in a trance, far from history’s maw,
their cadence owing nothing to the slog
of soldiers or the slash of glinting swords
on a ravaged farmstead in Virginia.
Earth is recalling her boy from service.
Granules flake from the featureless face,
blending with dirt around the pedestal,
a wind from the river scattering him
throughout the park, sending him back
to his people on a Sunday afternoon,
his final sacrifice now part of the leisure
they have worked all week to secure,
his dust dispersed, in silent ceremony,
around the gentle steps of the lovers.
THE BUDAPEST STRINGS “Lullaby”