I have been to Gettysburg...


I have been to Gettysburg... 

...its almost haunting. 


So very sad to stand there where the blood flowed 
and the bodies lie still. 


I go off the trail paths, 
into the forest and sit upon big boulders,
where soldiers may have sat to rest a moment... 
or to die pressed up against its side. 


I look closely at the trees in there-
they are punctuated with bullet holes.
Maybe from bullets that passed through a young soldier,
before embedding itself in bark. 


I trace the outlines of the pock-marked tree... 
even fitting my finger into the tiny cavern. 
I feel the pulse of the tree...the sorrowful song it sings out

from the horrors it witnessed as it stood there...
-only able to offer a leaning support, or a place to hide behind. 


It must have shivered as the winds of war flew around its trunk, 
branches hanging low in grief, wanting to pull close and shelter 
a young fatally shot soldier as would his mother. 

Poor tree...wounded too, in battle.

But at least it survived all these many years since. 


These paths are silent now, yet the sounds of battle 
seem to remain echoing through. 

Each step I take, retraces steps of soldiers, 
men and boys I never knew... 
and now I walk in their tattered shoes, 
remembering them, 
grieving them, 
breathing the air they breathed, 
seeing the sun they saw, 
smelling the pine they smelled- 
though theirs was laced with the acrid scents of gun powder, 
the scent of blood, 
...the scent of death. 


I have been to Gettysburg... 

I have seen where it all happened 
and I have felt it in my soul. 
Its unexplainable emotion...
for I knew no one from that time- 
but I know them all here. 

I hear them... 
I feel them, 
I see them- 
see them running, 
see them falling, 
...see them dying. 


Their ghosts seem to surround me,
all trying to tell their story at once. My ears are full of their final words 
that no one heard in their passing moment from this world- 
to the one after. 

But I listen so their ending thoughts before death 
have not gone unheard. 


Unbearable saddness fills me as their messages seep into my heart. 
I can not contain my tears, 
so they descend and fall to the ground at the feet 
of ghostly soldiers, mixing with their now cold blood 
that flows still, from their form. 


In that moment, I become their mother

waiting at home for word that her son is safe- 
their lover, 
dutifully waiting for their return-
their wife,
who sits writing letters that never made it to them
...words of love and longing never read.


I become to them, who they needed 
in the final seconds of their life,

as they cried out their loved ones names- 
for only the forest to hear. 


I have been to Gettysburg... 

and all is calm there now-
the cannon fire ceased, 
the cries of pain...of anguish 


Yet in the silence there, remain the loud memories-
memories that scream to those who care to listen. 

I have been to Gettysburg... 

...I shall return again. 



©Cathy Cavalcante 2003

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