0118 Wyeth County

We knew the history of the area, of course;
reckoning that with a Heritage Site
just over the hill
planning permits would be hard to get
and the rolling landscape, and our own prized view,
would stay that way.

Clearing the ditch beyond the orchard,
by the line of old trees,
I found it.
A musket.
still loaded (I realised later, cleaning it up)
and a scrap of disintegrating coloured cloth
still with a button on it.

A button.

It was the button
that put paid to my former life:
as if with the harsh scrape of iron cartwheel on stony track,
the past had arrived;
stolen the present from our comfortable grasp,
with a cartload of heavy, worn,
war-weary baggage,
and taken up residence in our front parlour
with its proudly sourced 'folk furniture'
that now looked like imposters in hiding.

It was when I drove into our small town next day
and the faces of the locals whom I thought I knew so well
looked at me with eyes that seemed to own
clothes heavy with history
and fierce division
that I knew that the past had claimed us
and that our lives would never quite be ours again

And that we must discover, not war but human pride
under the no longer picturesque
landscape
which we can no longer
pretend to own.

by Michael Shepherd

Comments (5)

I like this Michael. I can see those faces, and sense the dubiousness of understanding, based on an artifact, what all that misery was for. The last stanza seems deletable. It's you 'pronouncing.' The gem ending was the stanza right before.
I'll get there in the end - Battle of Brandywine (Creek) , 1777... but it's meant generally...
I mean the War of Independence don't I... humble apologies...
I could be in deep uncharted and uncompassed waters here...it's an emotional excursion into the mental world of your great American painter obsessed by the battlegrounds and memories of the Civil War - Andrew Wyeth of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. I'd often written about him from the art aspect; I just wondered what it would be like to move to that area unprepared, so to speak. And again not entitled to speak on this: post-9.11 brings its further sentiments about the American landscape of the heart? I was about to erase this verse today if there were no comments, Rich - but I've hit the expert! !
Impressive. Any idea what war? What battle?