An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections

Antietam

We all went in a yellow school bus,
on a Tuesday. We sang the whole way up.
We tried to picture the bodies stacked three deep
on either side of that zigzag fence.
We tried to picture 23,000 of anything.
It wasn't that pretty. The dirt smelled like cats.
Nobody knew who the statues were. Where was
Stonewall Jackson? We wanted Stonewall on his horse.
The old cannons were puny. We asked about fireworks.
Our guide said that sometimes, the land still let go
of fragments from the war—a gold button, a bullet,
a tooth migrating to the surface. We searched around.
On our way back to the bus a boy tripped me and I fell—
skidding hard along the ground, gravel lodging
in the skin of my palms. I cried the whole way home.
After a week, the rocks were gone.
My mother said our bodies can digest anything,
but that's a lie. Sometimes, at night, I feel
the battlefield moving inside of me.

 

Published in I Was the Jukebox (New York: W.W. Norton, 2010).

Published: 22 September 2011
© 2011 Sandra Beasley and Southern Spaces