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’s poems have appeared in New Letters, Shenandoah, Rattle, The Southern Review, Crazyhorse, and Prairie Schooner. He is the recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the NEA, a fellowship from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and six fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council. Walking with Eve in the Loved City was a finalist for the Miller Williams Poetry Prize. A new collection, American Loneliness, is available from Lost Horse Press.
 

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Snow on brush in desert

IMAGE CREDIT: Jill Katherine Chmelko. Protest Road, Winter.ย 2019.

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