The Living
                                (Stones River, 1861– )

In some sense, the dead are easy to bear,
to order, to understand—We find a name,
a company, carve markers, line them
in fields as straight as corn, shoulder to shoulder,
trench, spade over, and wait for them
to be claimed or not, or years later, moved
for this or that town’s shining ceremony.
But two thousand shattered horses and mules
make hard work and, burning by the riverside,
weigh even the air as they leave us.
The wounded bear harder still,
and many—nearly twenty thousand—spill
from our houses, from beds or blankets,
from flat-on-the-floors, and ravage the gardens,
feed as if there were no end, and, soon enough,
everyone starves....  This is my house for hundreds
of years to come, and these are my fields,
and this is my night and my dark lantern
that leads us, then and always, to the second growth of cedars,
where robins roost, where we tap them from the trees—
bushelsful—boil them with hulled barley and eat.
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