II.

Little Round Top
2 July 1863

Held in reserve, we ran to top a hill,
an ordinary hill of no great height,
wooded, and rock covered as
if the Creator had sown rocks like grains.
I’ve seen much the same in Maine
or in New Hampshire.

No sooner there than all of Alabama
seemed to mob us howling bloodlust.
We crouched and fired
until our long guns grew too hot to load,
and when there was nothing left to load
we threw rocks.

Alabama kept coming, retreating, surging
up. And all while the screams of the wounded
filled our ears, smoke blinded us and powder burned
our lips to cinder. Then, up and fixing bayonets,
we wheeled left and ran down the hill like
some great scythe against the summer wheat.

Alabama fell to Maine. Men sobbed and swore,
prayed and stabbed. We sat and wept
for joy and failure, bound by the struggle itself.
While the wounded cried for mother,
the ground drank our mingled
blood indifferent to our causes.

 

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