At the Public Market Museum: Charleston, South Carolina
A volunteer, a Daughter of the Confederacy, receives my admission and points the way. Here are gray jackets with holes in them, red sashes with individual flourishes, things soft as flesh. Someone sewed the gold silk cord onto that gray sleeve as if embellishments could keep a man alive. I have been reading War and Peace, and so the particulars of combat are on my mind—the shouts and groans of men and boys, and the horses' cries as they fall, astonished at what has happened to them. Blood on leaves, blood on grass, on snow; extravagant beauty of red. Smoke, dust of disturbed earth; parch and burn. Who would choose this for himself? And yet the terrible machinery waited in place. With psalters in their breast pockets, and gloves knitted by their sisters and sweethearts, the men in gray hurled themselves out of the trenches, and rushed against blue. It was what both sides agreed to do.
From Otherwise: New and Selected Poems by Jane Kenyon. Copyright © 1996 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota.