Civil War Poems 3

Antietam, The Night After

His head lay heavy on a gray sleeve
soaked with blood, still warm,
under a lone thin birch tree
hovering over him,
and he was certain it knew
of his presence underneath
as the raindrops spoke, pattering
on its few tattered leaves
in smoke-filled darkness.

Will you protect me if
I give myself to you
with perfect trust?

Then he heard the moans
of others, and the cursing, and
thought of counting his heartbeats
until morning, when
they would find him
reveling in the first rays of sunlight,
come to spend him warmth.

In the rain at sunrise
they found him, on his side
having crawled to the birch tree
clamping its trunk
between stomach and thigh,
one arm thrust down to his hip
his hand clenched,
the other embracing the tree's
torn white skin,
his life drained from him
his collared neck twisted,
the head thrown back
his bearded face staring up.

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