|Jul/Aug 2017 Poetry Special Feature|
Whitman on the Bank of Lethe
...what America did you have / when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out / on a smoking bank and stood watching / the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe? —Allen Ginsburg, "A Supermarket in California"
A gallery of crows calk
as they fly in circles above.
The busy Union Ordnance Corps,
methodically and uniformly pry, pick, and sort
rifles, revolvers, swords, and bayonets
that were held in young cold dead hands.
Since the warring Ancient Greeks,
armies are resupplied by their fallen—
more important than grave digging.
They tediously fieldstrip, replace parts,
clean, and shine these weapons as
cannons thunder and muskets sound off
from the surrounding hills that smoke and smell of gunpowder.
After he passes by that with his walking stick,
going up the ribbon of road, a man who saw
prosody in the common man's shoulders,
witnessed a pile of limbs like the leftovers of sirens
flung from over-worked medics in bloodstained butcher's aprons,
needing to swig whiskey meant for the amputee patients.
Good Grey Poet.
what America did they have,
those wounded you visited?
Those you gifted flowers, fruit, or tobacco.
Wrote letters home for. Read aloud to.
Nursed and dressed their wounds. Held hands as they passed.
Remembered as beautiful boys where they grew up,
playing with smiles, young and unafraid of anything.