Shunning the British tourist bus, we walk,
My child and I, the West Woods where, like dogs
Who know their death is due, the wounded took
Themselves to give up hope. The horror begs
Imagining—the soldiers hauling limbs
Hacked off or messmates dead, and everywhere,
Mixed with the summer scent of swelling plums,
A stench of putrid flesh and burning hair.
Here Lee was turned. That night the forest filled
With muttered names of loved ones left, and cries
From mangled soldiers pleading to be killed.
Seeing my distant look, my daughter tries
My sleeve: “What is it, what?” she asks, and I
Say “nothing, nothing”—though “nothing” is a lie.
“Near Antietam” from One Unblinking Eye by Norman Williams. Published in 2003 by Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, Athens Ohio (www.ohioswallow.com).
Source: One Blinking Eye (Ohio University Press, 2003)