by Frank Weltner. All Rights Reserved.
Psalms of the Civil War
... The Union
68. General Grant
Ulysses Grant, I am, a man of spit
And little polish, filled with grit and hate
For warís own silly plight. I used my men
As fodder just to eat away my enemy.
Upon those wavy fields of grass and blood
And flies, the souls of dying lads sang songs
Of deep regret, of girls they left behind,
Of dreams forever unfulfilled. So what?
The Union was far more important than
Some soldierís sweetheart. Life itself is full
Of anguish from our bloody birth itself
Until our dying moment. Pain fulfills
Each lifeís swift passage with a bloodied swab.
We fall upon our battlefields alone.
69. The Widow
My man was young and brave. He fought the fight
Like all the others, North and South. His death
Was lost upon the headlines strewn with names
Like his. He was the Unknown Soldier, for
A death so young meant we would never know
Him, what he might become, might be, might give
To this vast world of dreams where he will dream
Of nothing. For he rests atop the lonely place
Where bullets felled his sweet dear soul. They trained
Him up to kill another widowís husband,
Raised theirs to kill my own. What madness is
This thing called war and patriotism? Here
We are, strung out upon a thread in time
And marching with the pearly drums of death.
70. Abrabam Lincolnís Son, Thomas
Within these rooms, I am alone, I am
So silently like stone, within the House
Of white now turned to reddish hues
The blood of thousands I have sent
Into the screaming cannon, bodies hurled
Into the heavens, men dismembered limb
From agonizing limb by leaded balls
Each sped by Satanís wicked warring eyes.
Those boys whose parents loved them as I loved
My dearest dying son, dear Thomas. Tom
Who gave his life to God inside this house.
This fever pulled its sheet across his face.
Asleep in military camps, alone.
Fifty thousand just like Thomas cough.
71. His Son Thomasí Death in the White House
Oh, Lord, take not my sonís small life this day
And leave a President alone without
His sonís sweet innocence. Instead, take me.
I offer you my life today for his. Please take
My life that he may live beyond this grand
Eternal war where sour damnation screams
The sordid names of Lincoln, Lee, and Meade
Perched high as Devils in the searing scent
Of battlesí hideous carnage, red with flesh,
the victimsí victuals spread upon the grass
Like slaughtered cattle cuts upon the floors
Of untold slaughter houses. Day by day
These cuts of lean athletic soldiers rot
In tatters on my nationís battlefields.
72. The Fredericksburg Debacle
I heard today of Fredericksburg, the bridge
Of Death, where thousands died of bullets tossed
In storms of lead against their bright blue clothes.
These, men, like all the others I have sent
To die, scream for my life, and scratch the soil
Of graves not yet dug to hold their carcasses.
I cannot say I loved them. Yet I feel
A love of sorts for glory on the field
Of military battles where the hearts
Of men are sorely tested when they face
Their inner fears and either stand or run
From warís bone shattering horror. These dying men
Have cursed my name. I sent them death which I
Prepared inside the White House. I am Death.
73. Lincolnís Sin
Oh, Lord, I know that only Hell is meant
For men like me who send so many men
To die for nothing more than lust for power.
This nation is not worth a single life
For I am merely fighting for control
Of men who wished to live in freedomís eye.
Instead, I rose up armied, listed men
For wanton death inside their marching lines
Of blue. What use is Union to the man
Who lives upon the midwest prairies? What
Makes him want to fight for some vague flag
That waves atop that pole in battleís storms?
Their footsteps mock me in their brave designs
While I kneel and ask for Godís forgiveness.
74. Letter of Sympathy to Mrs. Worley
Dear Mrs. Worley, I regret to write
Today of your sonís sacrifice upon
The field of battle. He has died so brave
A hero to the proposition that
Though he is gone, so many in this land
Of deepening sorrows may again soon taste
The time when Union holds our many sons
In gentler arms and hugs them to her breasts
Like swaddling babes, as motherís only do
To quiet all the cries a baby knows to give
So eloquently. Your boy gave his life
For that America we long for once
Again, a land of peace, equality,
And brotherhood for all who bear her arms.
75. The White House Ivy
I walk beside the White House walls, my feet
They echo on the stony walls. This is where
Green ivy grows across those gravestonesí sides
Besmirching all the names of those who died.
These echoes are the cries of men in grief
Whose battles robbed their lives and limbs. I am
Their killer, he who stole their hearts. I am
The man of squalor, filth, and gore, whose smile
Of death upon their lips demeans their flesh
Of life and the ability to ever love.
No son, no mother, no sweet wife, shall feel
The filial hair in bloodied scalps that rest
Beneath the ivy stones of their Peoplesí House
Where orders for their deaths were signed by me.
76. Across From Fordís Theater
I, half asleep across from Fordís small theatre.
I am surrounded by physicians quietly
Attending to my certain death. I hear
So little. It is like the lull of death
After battle. Small sounds drift past my ears
Mere mumbles, more like whispers, like
The mouth of God or Satan, am I dead,
Or only nearing deathÖ "He will pass tonight,"
The gangling man says. I see his hands.
They float above my head like cannon-shot
Just heading westward like a vale of tears.
St. Peter stands before me, nodding back
And forth. I am not worthy of Godís place,
He says. At least, I fear thatís what he said.
77. Lincolnís Death Swoon
So swiftly runs my soul past carrion feet
Into the crystal maw of deathís sweet clarity.
I feel these angry teeth snapping at
My entrails. I lie still as Appomattox.
The path now ends upon this trail of tears.
Now, hurled within this final Hell by Fordís
Elusive melodrama, I am not
A viable man, for I have lost the feel
Of life within my limbs, all numbed by this
Transition into deathís immediacy.
A moment sooner I was well, now not.
A soldier bullet felled, I suffer death
Through timeís blood draining claws. The clockís foul hands
Smear away the blood-gored stream of life.
78. Mary Todd Lincoln
Now, draped in blackest satin, now I stand
Beside the crumpled body of the man
I loved, my President. Not long ago
Our sonís sweet head died upon his lap.
I watched the tears inside his eyes like wine
Spewed forth from fallen bottles. Watery tears.
Like mine. I clutch his cold hard hands and know
His life has flown away forever. Now,
Forever, I alone shall pine in sad
Lost sorrow for his loss. This world of ours
So trauma tossed and strewn with loss
of lives would come to this sure end, where fate
Designed that we should come to the same place
Where soldiersí souls are lowered into graves.
79. The Train
I saw the flag-draped train of Lincolnís ride
To Illinois and knew my brotherís death
Upon the bloodied field of civil war
Brought only death, more death, and more.
His death begat another death begat again
This death as though a pendulum of fates
Transformed the promise of a life renewed
Upon a virgin land into a guise
Of horrors. Lincolnís train slowed down so I
Could see inside the glossy coffin where
His widow knelt in prayer. I saw her hands
Upon the flagís sweet drape, cuddling stars
Upon a sea of blue, the color which
My brother flashed upon his deathís sweet dance.