When the hurly-burly’s done

The mist breathes up. It hugs us
and we rise with it, never wearing
boots where boots should be.
Strange how at ground level
all that’s bony turns to mush.
Can’t tell where I end and all
the clinging stink begins.

But the most important thing is—
listen, remember, and tell it,
for God’s sake
—I’m not alone.
Never. I’m one of a windrow.
One hundred and ninety-three,
shriven in hail and timber.
Pigs rooted but I stayed deep,
nestled in April’s sodden clods.

When days above grow longer,
it rains and we leach a bit more.
But I’ll testify to the hornet’s song,
and I do still recall these things:
Fire pinks, petaled like blossoming
wounds. Rabbits, running in smoke.
And sticky unripe peach juice,
trickling from my cooling lips.

Note: After the Battle of Shiloh, many of the dead were buried quickly in mass graves. The location of some of those graves is unknown today.

Richard Manly Heiman lives in the pines of the Sierra Nevada. He works as an English teacher and writes when the kids are at recess. Richard has been published by Rattle, Into the Void, Spiritus (Johns Hopkins U.), and elsewhere. His website is https://www.poetrick.com.

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