At Kennesaw Mountain

At Kennesaw Mountain (poem by Jack Ballard, Jr.)

Azure sky o’er the dead

Whose heaven-borne spirits now have fled

Through dark vale of David’s dread

To judgment now they came.

The brightness of the humid haze,

No different in the ancient days

Of battle scars, when towns were razed

And so I walk the same.

Even now, the ravaged scar

Of local conflict, distant war:

The land recalls when battles marred

The forests filled with flame.

Some walk in solitude with me

Whose bones wait passive under knee.

Brave to charge, in terror flee

The enemy, they are the same:

For dead and dead are much alike,

As Solomon in wisdom writes,

And Paul whose adage was the fight

Fought good, and finishing the race.

The ghosts lie prostrate in the land

While I cross where berms were planned

As monuments to great last stands

And retreats tinged with shame.

Cannons cross at the Dead Angle,

Where North and South were once entangled

And Southern hope was slowly strangled.

Then the Union won the game.

North, some rode with memories

To darken homes and lives of ease.

Some left limb and black disease

To wander, lasting lame.

Others lie to slowly molder

‘Mong the trees and lonely boulder

Forgotten naught by fellow soldier.

Men have fought for enforced claim,

For various and lofty goals

In these tests of timeless souls

To rise above or fall below.

The trials that men entertain

Are high in any of life’s age.

But the crucible of battle rage

Is more intense and thus the stage

Defines the man: whom he became.

Such purpose is beyond our ken

But higher still is praise to men

To whom God utters, “Well done, friend”

For glory and eternal fame.