Battlefield

Mid-October, and around the rocks of Devil’s Den
legions of cabbage white butterflies march
in wild disorder, like scattered clouds of ashes
in the late-day light. Under the blank staring eyes
of bronze generals we negotiate winding
dirt paths among boulders encrusted with shapeless
patches like grey-green lace: when I visited
Gettysburg as a child with my parents, I imagined
those splotches on the rocks to be long-weathered
remnants of spattered blood. I know now
they’re lichens, fungi and algae interdependent,
forming a perfect union, and the real remains
of those three savage, scorching days
twelve-pound cannons belching thunder
mortar shells whistling and exploding
men and horses down, the wounded
crawling screaming cursing
are less obvious. At the outskirts of that regiment
of massive stones, a line of golden foxtails nods
in the breeze; a mockingbird whistles its contorted song,
mosquitoes whine past our ears. On the hillside
near Little Round Top withered stems of Solomon’s
seal bearing shreds of twisted, frost-bleached
leaves lie flattened on the ground, their red fruits
spilling like tears down the grassy bank,
deepening shadows assembling around them
in pools of blue and grey.

Carol Grametbauer writes poetry in Kingston, Tennessee, where she is chair of the board of directors of Tennessee Mountain Writers. Her poems have appeared in Appalachian Heritage, POEM, The Cabinet, The Kerf, Still: The Journal, Fluent, and Maypop; and in The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VI: Tennessee and Remember September: Prompted Poetry. Her chapbook, Now & Then, was released by Finishing Line Press in March 2014.

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