Thursday, June 29, 2006

Their motto is don't tread on me . . .

Self-Evident Things Cornelius Saw

...................Truth is the majority vote of that
. . . . . . . . . .nation that could lick all others.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .--
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Three times in the early autumn of 1780,
ten-year-old Cornelius Banta spotted him,
General Washington, mounted, riding
among the 14,000 troops encamped and
waiting for French reinforcements to arrive.
Cornelius may have been delivering cider
from his father's mill, or following the trail
of a deer, or may have simply wandered
feverishly, drawn by the restless air of
revolution, the lives of so many uprooted
men. The ridge would have been thick with
the scent of them, the smoky fires of 14,000

Two centuries have come and gone and now
it is late spring, the azaleas are all withering
if not entirely unbloomed, though the giant
rhododendrons overhead bow beneath
flourishes of periwinkle, white-petalled
silences, and magenta tongues of fire.
Washington Spring sifts silently through the
green cresses that it feeds, and all the place
is mist and passing flower, abuzz and good
to take the sun in. The chestnut tree that
shades the eastern bank is not old the way
the spring is old, not ringed with an age of
rippling revolutions, remains too new to
have provided cool passage to a General or
a soldier fingering the frayed remnant of a
letter from the girl he'd love if he survived
with arms and legs still ripe with her, with
hands and fingers that once might cup her
love in round caress.

I touch the little fires all around, daffodils
have given way to daisies, soft petals like so
many colored tongues in a green morning.
Last year's leaves carpet the earth here, layers
of so many leaving years. You can feel them
all, like a nerve that runs throughout, pins
and needles of the place, and too, the lives of
men that would have broken camp that late
September, to abandon this Edenic post for
war, its survivors consigned to roam the earth.
They did it, got all broken and dead, for the
General and the wide-eyed cider boy from
Banta's farm, for streams that rise when rains
fall, for spring that leads to summer, for all
such things self-evident, like bodies strewn in
raw red fields, in every posture but repose.

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