Skip to main content

Two poems for Gettysburg

By Catherine Woodard
updated 3:26 PM EST, Tue November 19, 2013
A crowd gathers to hear President Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863. Lincoln is seen in the center, just to the left of the bearded man with a top hat. A crowd gathers to hear President Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863. Lincoln is seen in the center, just to the left of the bearded man with a top hat.
HIDE CAPTION
Photographs of the Gettysburg Address
Photographs of the Gettysburg Address
Photographs of the Gettysburg Address
Photographs of the Gettysburg Address
Photographs of the Gettysburg Address
Photographs of the Gettysburg Address
Photographs of the Gettysburg Address
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>

(CNN) -- Editor's note: Catherine Woodard is a poet and former newspaper and new media journalist. Woodard worked to return Poetry in Motion to the NYC subways and is a board member of the Poetry Society of America.

Catherine Woodard
Catherine Woodard

Gettysburg -- that long, bloody battle in July 1863 is forever seared into the American psyche and continues to draw visitors to its historic field in Pennsylvania. Among them is poet Catherine Woodard, who visited Gettysburg last summer, the 150th anniversary of that decisive Civil War battle.

For the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, she wrote two poems.

Gettysburg

Gen. Daniel Sickles takes his amputated
leg home in a barrel of whiskey. Takes

credit for the Union victory
when Lincoln visits three days later.

Rep. Sickles (D-NY) works the missing leg
even better than the one still attached.

He nominates himself for a Medal of Honor,
hitched to a bill to hallow Gettysburg

where he sent 10,000 New York boys --
against orders -- down from Cemetery Ridge

to a peach orchard, then out to meet the Rebs.
On the 150th anniversary of the battle,

two sweaty brothers squirm on Little Round Top
in midday sun, oblivious to parents and tour guide.

They wear blue Union caps, struggle
to attach plywood bayonets to replica rifles.

+++

"To care for him who shall have borne the battle"

-- Abraham Lincoln, second inaugural address

Vets back from Iraq or Afghanistan
still file paper claims.

They wait hundreds of days
to find out how much PTSD or lost limbs

are worth to a country that launches --
in seconds -- drones half a world away.

The president,
reelected by digital data-mining,

promises to trim the wait --
by the later years of his second term.

No date set for VA computers
to speak the digital language of Defense.

The second floor sags in a veterans' office
in North Carolina, blamed partly

on expanded eligibility for Agent Orange,
though many decades late. Red twill tape

once bound the evidence pending review,
lending a color to complaint.

Now it's modern manila folders;
a million vets wait.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery support the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 1:10 PM EDT, Sat April 19, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
updated 7:23 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT