Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2018  Vol. 17 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
 print preview

Ghost Confederacy

They were the uncountable stars, the first time
We saw them, they were the glitter and the distance.
We were the swimming shapes of trees, that cast

Of shade extending over their tents. We hid
In ravines, but not to be one with nature.
We knew what being one with nature really meant.


And we were never the color-blind grasses,

We were never the pattern of the snake
Fading into the pattern of the leaves;
We were the empty clarity one glimpses

In water falling, in water spreading into
A thin white veil on what is never there,
The moment clear and empty as a heaven

Someone has just swept clean of any meaning.


If minié ball or cannon fire had a meaning,
We would have had maybe thirty seconds left
Of heaven to pin the right leaves back on trees

In summer and reattach the amputated limbs
Of boys. But the moment, clouding over,
Becomes again only an endless slipping of water

Over the spillways, and falls roaring in the ears
Until they ring, and the throat swollen
With failure and desire mingling there.

I could taste it in my mouth for days. It tasted

Like the wafer a friend said the Holy Ghost
Came wrapped up in. The Holy Ghost tastes like dust.
It liberates the body from the body so riddled

With rifle holes you can look right through us.
Look through us to what? To slums and shopping malls?
To one suburb joining another? Who grieves

On minimum wages? Look through us to that place—
Within sight of the trailer park and the truck stop—
Where Gettysburg could not be reenacted,

Where what was left of us on either side
Lay down our rifles, wept, embraced each other once.
That dust you taste in the Holy Ghost is us,

Dust ground into the windows you gaze out of,
And whether those windows burn or whether lights
Come on again in rows of quiet houses is a matter

Of how you treat him, sitting over there and still
Bleeding from a bad haircut, that captured soldier, that

Enemy, that risen dust, that boy, that stranger, you.  

(reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press)

return to top