by Marcia F. Brown
On the Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg, historians call them “Witness
Trees” . . . Last week, Park officials found a new one . . . with two bullets still
embedded in its trunk 148 years later. — The Washington Post, August 9, 2011
It is not required that you carry casings under ancient scars
For centuries, in order to bear witness. Or stand forever
On Culps Hill, tap roots drinking from blood–soaked earth,
Arms spread wide to shade the small stone markers of the fallen.
You do not have to recall the names,
The dates, or the too–young ages. You do not have to know your history. You are too old for that anyway. They will believe you
Because you are still standing in the same place.
Or even if they don’t,
You have only to remember the boy crouched behind you,
His heartbeat reverberating in the wood, heat of his terror, sweat, Squeezed–back tears and the barrel of his rifle chattering,
Only to replay again and again,
The volley of lead, the two you took, so sharp and stunning,
The smoke then settling and the boy exhaling,
Pressing salty lips to your splintered skin.