Magazine | June 22, 2015, Issue

Poetry

THURBER’S VETERANS

They brooded on the porches of Columbus

Forty years after ’61, when they went

South, crossed the Ohio, battled the rebels

And returned. By 1900 there were

Still dozens of them left in town, little

Suspecting being memorialized by

The boy with thick glasses who pressed them

For details of campaigns in Virginia

Or Tennessee and what it was like when

An uncle was the first up Missionary

Ridge at Chattanooga. When they became

Distracted and unintentionally

Confused rumors of broken dams, or dogs

Barking in the night — the Flood of ’87

And the Battle of Fredericksburg twenty-five

Years before it — the blended cataclysms

Of the Ohio Country’s past, perhaps

They resumed their ranks in uniforms

That fit perfectly at last; then were faced

Only by the monuments of town life,

The bronze heroes who lifted swords over

The ordinary days ahead of them.

Perhaps the boy asked because he knew more

Of baseball than they, even at that age,

But what they had gone through was a struggle

He could only imagine as vivid

Dreams, nightmares, visions where a far-sighted

Boy could see perfectly everything, floods,

Domestic comedies, dogs in attics

Chasing ghosts; crossing the river at dawn

Determined to drive the enemy south.

Lawrence Dugan’s poems have appeared in Chronicles, First Things, Image, Modern Age, and National Review.

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