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Winter/Spring 2019

“Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.” –Stonewall Jackson’s last words

 

by Susan Alff

 

Halfway between independence and daughter-duty,
off the siege of I-95, a brown plaque:
The Stonewall Jackson Shrine.
White clapboard in an open field,
the tracks to Richmond to the west, the building
rests behind a friendly line drawn long ago.

Friendly fire it was caught Stonewall in the arm
and brought him to this sepia room to heal,
a wooden bed impossibly short,
the mattress just as thin. The cure became
a wait, his left arm removed and buried else-
where. The clock keeps vigil from his time into mine

and I drive on. What is the power
of this wartime place to give me ease?
Around the dinner table of my out-
grown family, friendly fire breaks out–
old scores, lost causes, grudges–
all have their turn but draw no further blood.

What is a shrine but flesh made stone and wood,
to make a grace of loss, one deathbed, more
to come? The table, central to our stories,
empties, the blood and clamor
of Chancellorsville a pamphlet
in a Park Center rack, respite
in the year the monuments come down.

 

[Check out Susan Alff’s back porch advice]