Gettysburg, 11/19/1863

lincolnaddress

 

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

very different.

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.

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