The ground still had that smell
like a butcher shop that was left
bloody in the summer and
remained unclean to freeze
in the winter.
Here staged on this acreage
was a performance between
participants belonging to the
same continental genotype-
language the same, culture
Clad in blue and gray costumes,
smoke and lead were the
accompanying set pieces.
Blood and appendages,
filthy bandages and excrement
steaming in the cold dawn air
were the end result of the ballet.
The crush of people gathered
now were mostly wearing black,
silk and beaver top hats glimmering
gently in the low sun of a November
morning. They heard without end
blowhards and brass bands, polite
applause and running noses, waiting.
The speaker was a tall man, head bare in the
chill, his face pale from illness,
or sadness-it was hard to say.
But the crowd leaned in closer to hear
the voice unaided by artificial means,
say a few appropriate words for this
cemetery erected for the 70,000 dead:
“…gave their lives that that nation might live…
…we take increased devotion to that cause…
…a government of the people…
…shall not perish from the earth.”
The audience listened and the man
looked out over their accumulated
heads at the field around them, and he
internalized each corpse under the soil
as his responsibility.
His weight increased with their burden and
he stooped a little, bending like a willow
in a windstorm, but not breaking.
He was a strong man, but
what they died for,
he would too.