Vicksburg National Military Park

Just this—

When they were my sons
I would pull the covers up
around their ears
and tuck them in,
smooth their hair,
kiss their salty eyelids.
Now gingko leaves
make golden blankets
around the tombstone
of a boy from Iowa
and another I can’t read,
and another another
another another another
as far as I can see
scattered across the hillside
this autumn and every
autumn beyond counting.


Copyright © 2016 by Ann Fisher-Wirth. This poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.

About this Poem

"I am originally from northern California but I've lived in Mississippi for more than twenty-eight years. Twice, I've visited the Vicksburg National Military Park, and each time I have wished I could walk—and thereby honor—every inch of the nearly three miles squared where 17,000 Union dead are buried, with around 5000 Confederate soldiers buried in the nearby Vicksburg City Cemetery. Most of the graves on both sides are anonymous. Wondering how to write about such a vast place, such a ponderous subject, I happened upon the beautiful photograph of gingko leaves scattered among the graves. And I thought of the sons—all the sons—who are buried there."
Ann Fisher-Wirth