I’m hoping, from now on, to post a poem each Sunday. This one is from my book Private Hercules McGraw: Poems of the American Civil War. At this point in the book, Private McGraw has just finished a day of fighting at Gettysburg. He is broken and tired. Night envelops all and, for a time, there is peace.
Rest in Peace
Night came on, so hell seeped back
into earth for a time. Dragged all the hoot
and holler with it, all the pop and bang,
but the air – it was still slicked
with Satan’s stench: ash and death.
For the first time, I envied the dead.
They no longer needed to wonder –
would a Yankee cuss plant some lead
in their bellies or what Heaven is like.
Flies still buzzed around some. The hum –
like ma hushing me to sleep
when I still feared the dark. Funny –
I spent a whole night snoring
next to dead men. Purest
moments of peace I ever had.