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After the Smoke Cleared

Maybe the smoke hasn't yet cleared. The thick haze of cannon and musket belching has long since dissolved. Replaced a century later with the thick haze of exhaust. Tale pipes now for artillery. Both equal in their deadly potential. The congestion of blue and grey, battling through and over the streets and hills and valleys are mocked by the congestion of camera toting tourists, complete with their flip-flops and 2.5 kids. Mockery. But in some way, we all take part in this mockery. Which is more offensive in our derision: ignorant participation of the typical tourist or the willing role in examination and counter-examination of the anal historian? That is never for the poet to decide.


-1-
His wife waits in the car As he reads plaques and markers She reads romance novels And enjoys the time alone (written near the 56th PA marker, Spring '97)

-2-
50 years later They shared a campground here With food provided by boyscouts (written near Eternal Light Peace memorial, Spring, '97)

-3-
There is a used car lot Where they died. Would you want a rusted out Ford Marking your grave? (written near the bottom of the west side of Oak Ridge, Spring '97)

-4-
Boyscouts are reincarnated veterans marching in miniature along Pettigrew's route To the Copse of Trees A childish march as it should have been in 1863 Packleaders for generals the weak and bored straggle 20 feet behind I've seen scouts Aligned Manning the defenses Preparing for the pretend enemy (they are children, it is still pretend) Their minds blazing With musket fire While their packleader generals check their watches And struggle to imagine, but to never pretend. (written below the summit of LRT, Summer '97)

-5-
Let us take the electric trolley past the Peach Orchard and Devil's Den To the amusement part behind Little Round Top and to the dance floor To meet our true loves. (written below summit of LRT, Summer '97)

-6-
The mountain black raspberries on Roundtop are refreshing exploding warm from the sun Into my mouth (written below summit of LRT, Summer '97)

-7-
I try to paint myself into this Like a modern Philippoteaux Close my eyes and dream Not a signature to prove I was there But to just be there Not to say that I was But to live like I was (written in Northumberland, PA, Summer '97)

-8-
I pull you along and you follow not for the cause or for history's sake but for me From Oakhill to Devil's Den and back again My constant companion Never complaining (except for want of food and water) Never once suggesting we turn for home Reluctance subsiding with every trip And even asking a question here and there you are by my side the hot sun on your new england skin You are there. (written in Northumberland, PA, Summer '97)

-9-
Please come to this beautiful town Bring your families And children So they may play on the cannons as we've all done. We can't forbid this now, It is they rightful purpose of children and of cannons (written in Northumberland, PA, Summer '97)

-10-
My 5 year old spoke to me: "daddy, little round top is the best place on earth..." Bold statement of one so young and untraveled. But I have found favorite rocks Where I will eat and write and even sleep (the 3 essentials) This is not the 1st time He is quicker than me. only 5, It will not be his last. (written in Northumberland, PA, Summer, '97)

-11-
i never had the chance to take you to little round top to that rock where i sit to write poetry the hurry you left me in hangs me all i wanted was beauty (written in Northumberland, PA, Fall '97)

-12-
It's hard in winter's cold unceasing to wait patiently for summers hot Gettysburg weekends when even the night's air is sticky and uncomfortable to rise early showerless on the hazy morning to a day of walking exhaustion to roam near aimless to discover to walk where they walked and (when no one else is looking) crouch behind stone breastworks and imagine even raising your arms level to eye as if holding a springfield even dreaming to fire and hitting your mark you always hit your mark on the hot summer days imagining but in winter you must pretend (written in New Berlin, Winter '98)

-13-
I stepped through cold April up the south-eastern slope of Little Round Top Where Oats made his final assaults surrounding the 20th until they stood back to back upon themselves (I) Walked up Chamberlain Ave then left to find Oat's Boulder But what stood normally as unmarked now held a piece of paper lamenated Held to the boulder by a small rock and a ton of gravity

(Reading:)

To the memory of LT John A. Oats and his gallant Comrades who fell here July 2nd, 1863. the 15th Ala. Regt., over 400 strong reached this spot, but for lack of support had to retire

And you Col. Oats you have finally got your wish your boys are remembered and loved (written in New Berlin, Winter '98)

-14-
National Cemetery 2600 laid to rest honored Even children feel how heavy this place is how hallowed this ground Warm late march brings tourists and unwilling baby carriages brings the buried an unexpected weekend visitation and me to sit under a hemlock cameraless to picture to capture families of birds returning for spring some maybe their first day back this season it is my first this beautiful saturday For the love of God, Spring is here! (written in National Cemetary, Spring '98)

-15-
the crux of commercialism extending itself to new heights: the middle finger of development (yes, you, National Tower) flipping us off anywhere we stand can see it from Oak Ridge but not as threatening Culp's Hill through the trees Little Round Top to your right next to the Pennsylvania monument the Copse of Trees behind your back but on Cemetary Hill it's bold and doesn't give a damn who you are taller than Hancock on horseback more majestic than Lee and a damn site uglier than Sickles severed leg welcome to Gettysburg enjoy your stay try to ignore the tower (written in National Cemetery, Spring '98)

-16-
seems like lifetimes past since looking upon rocky hills and wheatfields to return and walk like paths to close my eyes dream an injustice to reduce to words of so much lost some more than limbs to honor, at least to believe to honor to want in their memory, but they have no memory for years now it's been inside me heirloom like quality passed down generations at work here to never forget and some obscure reference to freedom words can bring down nations deprive men of air, water, family, life or can give it back these are the words i long to speak. written in Lewisburg, Penna. March 12, 2000

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