Poetry Sunday: “Elegy with Civil War Shadowbox,” by Jane Satterfield


[From the WVFC Poetry Archive. First Published March 17, 2019]


Elegy with Civil Conflict Shadowbox


Within the wake of the towers’ collapse, there have been e-mails and memos,
strategic recommendation for educating about terror. After a time without work for mourning,

with class again in session—from cellphone calls, flooring conferences, and vigils—
college students have been merely tapped out. In time we’d ship our help—

within the type of chocolate, child wipes, and Pores and skin-So-Mushy—to abandon troops.
However for now—collective goals spattered with ash—consolation got here

in merely turning again to our work, one approach to counter disaster.
And within the days that adopted, we puzzled the way to pay tribute to what

is just past phrases. Clearly the query haunted John Philemon Smith,
trainer and city historian, eyewitness, at seventeen, to the battle

that remodeled his hometown from sleepyvillage to a mass grave. Over the course
of the twenty-four years that adopted, in treks alongside Antietam Creek,

throughout twelve miles of countryside, in sorties again into reminiscence’s terrain,
to phantom gunfire and visions of riflemen kneeling on the our bodies of the slain 

to fireside at retreating survivors; into the ghost-cries of a Gaelic cost from the Irish
brigade, the pile-up of the wounded, and gradual work of the Burial Crew,

he gathered regardless of the floor gave up, assembling a shadowbox from battle
particles: a folding camp spoon, Union uniform buttons, fragments of spent

artillery shells, minié balls, a belt buckle, fragments of a bayonet. Throughout the again
and sides of the field, in Smith’s upright and legible hand, particulars of battle, information

clippings, strains from an official’s commemorative speech. Rhymed quatrains
citing plenteous funeral tears, the neighing steed, the flashing blade, trumpet blast and

cannonade; his hand-carved reproduction of the cemetery’s Non-public Soldier Monument
positioned entrance and heart to create a compelling visible area—one man’s memento

of hope and therapeutic that not noted conflicts nonetheless simmering—segregation’s
mark within the veteran burials from the world wars. I keep in mind the heat-stunned

and rutted mud of Bloody Lane, scant chirp of crickets, wind, a park ranger’s
interval particulars—shells exploding the pacifists’ church the place wounded

have been taken, the shallow graves “frequent as cornstalks” in household fields.
The emancipated would wait greater than a yr for the state

to rewrite the regulation and grant them freedom. Later, whereas slathering ears
of Silver Queen with butter and salt, it was arduous to not suppose

of troops taking cowl in cornfields, stressed within the hours earlier than daybreak.
Round our battered kitchen desk, twenty-some miles from that area,

squabbles grown silent, my brothers with their biblical names,
spared the decision of conscription, bowed their heads for grace.


“Elegy with Civil Conflict Shadowbox” seems in Apocalypse Mix (Autumn Home 2017) and is reprinted with permission of the writer.

Jane Satterfield is the creator of 5 books, most not too long ago Apocalypse Combine, winner of the 2016 Autumn Home Poetry Prize, chosen by David St. John. An Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate, she is the recipient of a Nationwide Endowment for the Arts poetry fellowship, the forty ninth Parallel Poetry Prize from Bellingham Overview, the Ledbury Pageant Poetry Prize, and extra. Her earlier books embrace Her Familiars (Elixir Press; finalist for the 2013 Julie Suk Award for greatest poetry guide on an impartial press); Assignation at Vanishing Level (Elixir Press E-book Award), and Shepherdess with an Automated (Towson College Prize). Daughters of Empire: A Memoir of a Yr in Britain and Past was printed by Demeter Press in 2009. With Laurie Kruk, she coedited the multi-genre anthology Borderlands and Crossroads: Writing the Motherland (Demeter 2016). Satterfield’s poetry and prose have appeared in American Poetry Overview, Antioch Overview, The Widespread, Crazyhorse, Diagram, Lodge Amerika, North American Overview, Notre Dame Overview, Pleiades, and plenty of extra, in addition to on Verse Every day and Poetry Every day. The daughter of an American airman and a British mom, she grew up close to Andrews Air Pressure Base in suburban Maryland. She is married to poet Ned Balbo and lives in Baltimore, the place she is an affiliate professor at Loyola College Maryland.  (Cowl artwork for Apocalypse Combine by Tanja Softić, Migrant Universe: Departure Panorama, 2008, acrylic, pigment, chalk on paper mounted on panel, 60” x 120”/152 x 304 cm.)

Learn critiques of Apocalypse Combine here and here. Learn poems from Apocalypse Combine on the WWI Writes blog, and take heed to Satterfield speaking concerning the guide’s origin and apocalyptic literature at Superstition Overview’s Authors Talk site.


Poet’s Be aware

“Elegy with Civil Conflict Shadowbox” is a meditation on the challenges of memorializing conflict. The poem was impressed, partly, by the shadowbox I noticed in a 2012 exhibit referred to as “Divided Voices: Maryland within the Civil Conflict.” The Antietam Nationwide Cemetery Memorial Shadowbox, ca. 1886, created by Smith, is a part of the Maryland Historic Society’s assortment. Initially, I used to be struck by the artist’s tribute to a battle noticed up shut and recollected over time; the assemblage of battlefield particles—actual objects as soon as held by dwelling individuals—is a robust reminder of the human value of conflict, a visible lament for misplaced lives. On the identical time, the piece is a mirrored image of the best way the Civil Conflict has been deeply mythologized. The constraints of the artist’s imaginative and prescient are manifestly clear: some voices are foregrounded, and others are minimize out of the body altogether—specifically these of enslaved African Individuals who achieved freedom in a piecemeal style within the aftermath of the conflict’s chaos. Line 29 quotes a letter written by Samuel Michaels, the son of a Sharpsburg, Maryland farmer whose residence was commandeered as a makeshift hospital. The landscapes we inhabit are richly layered with voices and presences; the comfort elegies supply is that they summon these tales that hang-out us and provides them a reputation.


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