The Lullaby of History
By Kevin Boyle
I put the bookmark in the page after Lincoln’s
silence during the 1860 campaign, after no one
in the Gulf States cast a single vote for him,
then march off to the car, carseat in tow, drive on
cruise, mainly, to the site in Durham where Sherman
coaxed the Southern general — Johnston —
to submit twice, sign twice. The six hundred thousand
dead were like the shucks inside the reconstructed
bed, the smoke the chimney slewed, the clayish mud.
In the museum, name-tagged women watch our daughter,
four months here, while we investigate the flags
with gunshot holes, the uniforms with gunshot holes,
the shells of the Union Army with three rings, the shells
of the Confederate’s with two. We take our daughter
to the filmstrip, where she sleeps through
the stills of uniformed corpses in ditches and cries
at war’s end, one flag for all these states. We ride,
strapped, to the Greek restaurant known for its sauces
and lamb, stroll inside the tobacco warehouse transformed
into a mall, each glass pane so large a truck
could drive through and pick up brightleaf to ship.
They say this section profited when South met North
and troops took in the smoke of this leaf, spreading
by word of mouth the flavor, until the profits
were so large owners began to donate. In the antique store
we happen upon a map my father might love
of Ireland before division, just as it appeared
when he was born, the north a section, not another country,
Ulster’s counties awash in the orange the mapmakers
stained it. But we can’t commit to buy for this price,
or prevent our daughter from falling asleep as we discuss
facts the map makes clear: battles marked in bold,
our side losing again and again, the Flight of the Earls,
Vinegar Hill, the Battle of the Boyne, and we donate
a moment during the drive home to feel
the weight of the centuries’ dead, almost cry for all
those men who gave their skin to the ground so young,
so young brought their lips to earth and let their mouths
cave in, accept the soil as their voice. We did not wake
our girl through this. Let her sleep, we said.
Home from Pennsylvania. We almost had an enormous disaster -- younger son's Nintendo DS went missing when we were ready to leave. We spent two hours tearing the house apart looking for it, and finally left without it, to sounds of sobbing. Got a call on the cell phone ten minutes down Route 16 -- father-in-law had discovered it in the lining of the recliner, where it had somehow migrated after falling into the reclining mechanism. After much maneuvering of the upholstery, he drove down to meet us at the edge of a manure factory and after near death by asphyxiation while waiting for him, all was well. (Until apaulled told younger son he had too many stuffed penguins on his bed and should move some, causing a new crisis, but that is a different story.)
I owe lots of mail and comments and unpacking and stuff, but ended up spending too much time tonight here. Have no regrets whatsoever.
And here is Lincoln's memorial...
...with part of the text of his speech.
Ice dancing made me want to cry. Last Winter Olympics, we were in Los Angeles for my brother-in-law's wedding and I watched distracted at the houses of relatives and friends, only barely noting the new rules and the horror of music with lyrics, allowing people to do a lot of arm-waving while Sarah Brightman sang instead of actually having to interpret songs without words. I usually root for Israelis but what kind of idiots skate to "Bolero" in a post-T&D world? I'm happy for the Americans as they skated a very pretty program, and any couple who skates to Peter Gabriel's music for The Last Temptation of Christ gets two clicks for making my night. But wow, how we have fallen from the night Klimova and Ponomarenko skated that magnificent program to Bach.
Oh yeah...happy 60th, Alan Rickman! *blows your candles*