by John Mark Scott
In a battle -- except for boys at play --
Never fought, four times my brother stumbled
And fell in agony, clutching his heart
And rolling down the grassy embankment
To the trenches below the enclosure
Where in their circled focus a flagpole
And bronze inscription marked the memory
That might have been had history reversed
On the slopes and ridges of Gettysburg.
Around the hills of Pittsburgh were many
Such precautions, for here was the making
Of Union steel and deadly armament.
Ours was a great event, nevertheless,
In the quiet days of our unknowing.
The old earthen defenses are gone now,
Bulldozed away for practical reasons.
Few now would know that they ever were there.
Once, on a hilltop above the city
Where there were old apple trees and brambles
We watched in the night the bombers came.
Low they came and stealthily in ghostly flight,
Sliding like darkness under the stars.
The city below was curtained in dark;
The citizens there were practicing war.
From our hill we knew where the rivers were,
And the buildings and the tall Cathedral -
And also did the phantom bombers know.
But will it always be so -- one target,
A city, a valley, a place defined,
A column of advance, a battle zone,
An end in sight, a goal, a victory ...
There will be no cheering then, no marching home,
For battles then will be the air we breathe,
The water we drink, rain and falling snow,
The ground we tread on, the stones we build with,
An all-one wilderness, valley and hill,
One gray city-scape of dying and death.
Weep then will we for the time we did not,
Would not, learn the things that pertain to peace.
No turning then, all fixed and absolute,
No practice then for hopeless nothingness
Only time then -- perhaps -- only to weep ...
From "Parcels of Forever"