Grass and Graves

On the graves of men I have stood,

and there was grass growing there,

where bodies once rot

under a sun that took the life

right from their skin

like moisture,

evaporating into the air,

little lights in the distance

like stars falling from a heaven

that rejected them,

tossing them back down

onto the bloody fields,

leaving them with nothing

but a few gray monuments.

I have to remind myself

as I spread my fingers

across the dewy blades that

no one has died on this grass,

that grew just this spring,

but that I have lived on it –

and the words,

some wars are worth fighting,

seep through my skin

like sweat and down my body

and I cry like a child to think

that such ugliness might

be the truth.

Gettysburg Gettysburg Trip 2013 120 Gettysburg

* Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

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22 thoughts on “Grass and Graves

  1. So intense. I especially like this:
    “and I cry like a child to think
    that such ugliness might
    be the truth”

    It is all so baffling…

  2. A moving sentiment. Death in itself is a sad and unsettling part of life, but war seems to bring death too soon to the babies that fight for their country. It is very touching to read your tribute to these brave souls.

  3. Very beautiful work. I love history, and unfortunately wars and battles seem to be key markers (and sometimes turning points) in history. Gettysburg (like Pearl Harbor, Utah/Omaha beach, Valley Forge, Selma to Montgomery) is all the more moving to know the details of what men (and boys) went through there, and the role that those sacrifices played in the course of history. Let us strive to give value to their sacrifices.

    1. I couldn’t have said it better myself. History goes so far beyond what kids read in their textbooks at school – I don’t need to know the date that a battle was fought, I need to know about the men who went charging to their death in Pickett’s Charge and how, at the end of Gettsyburg in the pouring rain, General Lee turned to his nearly vanished army and said “It’s all my fault.” This is what history is. Not necessarily hard facts – though I’m not denying those are important – but the value of losses and victories and death and courage and sacrifice and the things that make us human, that make us fight wars for causes we believe in. It’s all completely mind-boggling and yet absolutely amazing.

  4. Wonderful poem about a dreadful subject–the penalty that ordinary men pay for the stupidity and cupidity of politicians. Your phrasing and word choice leave me breathless

    1. Thank you, although I must say – at the battle of Gettysburg at least – that the soldiers really knew and loved the causes they were fighting for. They died for a belief in their country, no matter which side they were on, and that is what truly breaks my heart. Though I agree with you about some of the other wars that have been fought in history…

      Thank you for your thoughts 🙂

      1. Although I am Scottish/Canadian I have read (and continue to do so) a great deal about the Civil War. Unfortunately at its root can be found the self-aggrandizing politicians. The belief in the Nation State is pumped into us from childhood and makes us ready sacrifices for our political masters. I do agree tho’ that the sites of some battles are very affecting regarding the men (and some women) who took part. They were very brave and did believe in their cause.

        1. And my comments do not take away from your wonderful poem in which your feelings are beautifully expressed. It is certainly high on the list of your best.

          1. Very well said. You’ve definitely got me thinking 😉 Although I struggle with the idea that the faith we have in our country is something pumped into us by politicians and not just a love for our homeland that we foster from birth. I can only say that when I stand alongside my fellow people and sing our national anthem with a hand over my heart, I feel nothing less than the most unwavering devotion to America. And yes, for that right, I would proudly fight for my country – but not because of something a politician said. But because of that feeling.

            And I don’t think your comments take anything away from the poem at all! If anything, they are very thought-provoking, and I appreciate them. I love conversations that branch out from something I’ve written.

            1. When I was young–a long time ago–I took inordinate pride in all things British (not Scottish alone). As I have aged and my knowledge of history and of people has grown, I have become rather cynical. I do believe that the concept of the Nation State and its inculcation of its growing young is the cause of the World’s ills, with religion as a huge contributor also. Still I cannot be totally cynical as I was thrilled to see Andy Murray win at Wimbledon this year. Remnants of National pride remain no matter how hard I try to stamp them out. Large Governments are the problem not the solution. Here endeth the polemic.

              1. I definitely see what you’re saying. And in another discussion with a well-read Gettsyburg fanatic, I realize how much your previous statement about politicians is correct – demonstrated in how Abraham Lincoln clarified the Union’s cause and gave meaning to the war. What, I think, it boils down to is a line in this poem – some wars are worth fighting – and whether it is true or not. If it is true, then I cannot argue with people giving meaning to causes, but if it isn’t, no one should be encouraging wars. I just don’t know what to think. This is something I continuously struggle with.

Thoughts? I love those.

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