You who have never known the loveliness of love,
Gather your heads on the torn pillow’s edge of mud,
Under the wood-tar shadows of camphor-aided sleep,
Where your low-flung groans are starvations of sound,
And the amputated clouds, insinuated with gangrene
And blood-stained woods, are still bound to the shooting
Stars that fell beside you and flung up hissing rays of grass.
Parents of the midnight sky, the stolen stars of your children
Open their broken mouths to the battlefield heart of trespass.
To their soldiers’ eyes, the floor of heaven is uncut grass,
Wet with rain and mold and the unlifted wings of Pegasus,
Whose unearthly hoof to unearthly earth scuffs the clod
Of the lunette for the cannons to divulge the great, stuttering
Coda of everything old, malformed of breath and bone.
Some grass somewhere will now seem the hair of a sweetheart,
And those dead eyes will aways stare, too fond of love unknown.
So the dead soldier and grass and sky conspire to hold a woman,
So the soldier makes the truce between earth and sky,
Between man and the divine, though the chestnut trees
In red human tongues, pay their deep-forested encomium to distance,
In misspilled gorgeousness like Apollo surveying his own tomb.
This is a Civil War poem that doesn’t pretend to examine causes or the sides, just the aspect of war and its toll.
“Lunette” is simply a crescent-shaped, earthen fortification that was used for cannon in the Civil War, with several well-preserved examples on the Chancellorsville battlefield.