Lee in the Orchard, 1865

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June 1, 2015 by The Citron Review

By Roy Bentley

This was after Lincoln had walked in Richmond.
It was the first week of April. There were blossoms.
Alone with the old agonies and smoldering new ones,
he may have shoved open the corset of a fence. Tied up
his horse Traveler. And the horse may have whinnied,
the animal noise suspending midair like woodsmoke.

Lee may have had to ask, What are you doing here?
and answer that very good question as best he could.
He knew that he had to answer Grant if not himself.
He may have walked where the promise of fruition
hung enormously still in some distant midsummer,
his apparitional army matching him step for step.

And though a hard justice had found R. E. Lee,
it was abridged by a blur of yellow jackets. Bees.
Something the heart of a flower requires like light.
Something like drops of rain if the rain had wings.
They had followed blood rivers at Chancellorsville.
Angels of the battlefield, he heard them called once

by a boy-lieutenant in the Army of Northern Virginia.
If he considered what Henry (Light-Horse Harry) Lee
might have done, he told no one. And he neither smiled
nor looked in any direction where his face could be read
or decoded as having caught sight of the end of the world
as he paced under and around a buzzing of tiny live things.

Roy Bentley has received fellowships from the NEA, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Ohio Arts Council. Poems have appeared in The Southern ReviewShenandoah, Pleiades, Blackbird, North American Review, Prairie Schooner and elsewhere. Books include Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama, 1986), Any One Man (Bottom Dog, 1992), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine, 2006), and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House 2013). He has taught creative writing and composition at universities and colleges throughout the Midwest and in Florida. These days, he teaches English and composition courses for Georgian Court University and lives in Barnegat, New Jersey. (“Lee in the Orchard, 1865” is from a new collection of poems, Roy’s book, “Sass” –which is in search of a publisher.)

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