The Triumph

By  Nickolas Urpí 

 “Memento mori…”

Whispers slave whispers throngs bells jangling like the inconsistent shouts of the masses of people shouting “io triumphe io triumphe” purple purple purple burning of torches choking on smoke flooding nostrils incendiary

I had consented to let the soldiers burn the huts as they looted the thatched homes in the city as was customary of the time everyone always burns as is their right the right of the conquered is it not so?

“Of course it is so” I had said to myself with the slopping of boots across the muddied ground the same shouting bursting in my ears “There is no other way”

“Imperator! Imperator!” Calvinus the procession like a long snake winding its way up through the Forum heading directly to the Capitoline choking the streets the throngs of people shouting shouts shouts shouts repeat repeat repeat the hard cobblestones swallowing the noise the soldiers red glimmering bronze beaming like ten thousand suns painful to the eyes “To the Gauls came the torch, from the steps of his porch, the enemy was sprawled, by our general who’s bald!” reach for the top of my head, feel the empty spaces and the laurel wreath crinkling beneath my hot fingers in the sun the golden cloak at my feet and the studded sandals the laurel wreath adorning the son of Jupiter the red paint of Mars clinging to my face the red clay the statues of the heroes lining the procession, gilded and adorned with luscious paints brilliant colors dancing in the sun’s cascading lights—

“Memento mori…”

The statues in the golden beaming of the sun—

“Your father triumphed twice in his lifetime,” they had said. “Your grandfather fought alongside Quintus Fabius Maximus in repelling Hannibal. He died in Zama. Of course you will go to war and defeat numerous enemies,” they had said this, encircling me in the atrium of my own house, my bulla my childhood medallion that had felt so light I had never truly felt it feeling so weighty as it was removed from me the wax faces of my ancestors peering out at me from around the room “Of course you will”

“Must I?” I had said. “Will I?”

The light from atop the Capitoline the sun’s fingers clinging to the Temple of Jupiter the greatest and best the greatest and best the shouts from the adoring crowd having earned their approbation and love and respect the way the ancestors had always done it the way of the ancestors the way of our fathers lining the streets watching the procession from atop their marble columns the fingers of their ambition poking the clouds Clavinus finding his name etched in stone across the way from his father my father the great Clavinus who took eight hundred prisoners had slain fifty thousand in battle brought back three million sesterces to the public coffers the great Calvinus who weareth the laurels of Jupiter atop his four horse chariot white as the day and pure as the light

“Memento mori…”

Fifty thousand slain the prisoners bound by hemp to the carriage which pulls them thus to their imminent death or saledeath their eyes shadow cast and downfallen beneath the banners “Here are the captured prisoners of war from Britain” prisoners of war war war war

They had lost. Our glinting steel dulled and bloodied—dried up in the hot sun and cold wind the panoramic vista of a fresh lake with the reeking of severed limbs and drowning corpses in the evening glare. The golden sunset had faded into the crimson settling of the glare lingering beyond the horizon’s threshold.

“The town lies just beyond the ridge. They would have evacuated by now. Shall I give the order to burn the houses?” he repeated to me. It seemed as though my tongue had been pinned to the roof of my mouth the way the spear had been driven into that man’s head and split his skull.

“That is what is always done,” I had replied to him. The smoke from the burning huts beyond that thin invisible veil that separates what is seen from what is unseen.

The smoke rose up and filled my nostrils again the procession winding its way around the city like the curdling of milk the prisoners watching their precious metals piled atop each other like their comrades’ burnt corpses the savoring taste of defeat’s bitter dust lingering on their tongues are they not men too? The reds and the purples washing the sea of crowds shouting and shouting How could I not have said “That is what is always done” for it was always done it was the way of the ancestors

the ancestors’ watched atop the corpses of wasted quinqueremes and

the cheering and the shouting

Shouting “Calvinus!” my name the men marching onwards with their glimmering helmets the colossal monoliths of the ancestors peering down and gravely sending their approbation between the dying light of day and the ascension of the Capitoline rising before the heads of the four horses the smell of cypress trees congratula—

“Memento mori…”

the cypress boughs

“Your father would be proud if he could see you today,” they said as the dirt began to pile atop him beneath the marble slab which listed his achievements which I did not care to read as I had memorized them long ago against the death written on his face when he became a wax mask to hang next to grandfather. “You will of course be consul and follow in his footsteps and slay many foes.”

“Must I?” I had said.

“Of course you must,” they had replied in unison.

I must have then no choice in the matter it was expected it was the way of the ancestors then the smoke ripping and tearing the water from the ducts in my eyes running down the cheek and mingling with the redness of my painted faces Mars’ and mine faces the shouting and cheering mixed with the cries of anguish and death and the smell of burning burning burning

“Is that not what the old generals had done?” he had asked, his armor spattered with the boiling blood of a Gaul.

“Then I must,” I had said. Though perhaps I could—

No perhaps only way the ancestors had done the cheering throngs of crowd singing as the ancestors fell behind in the procession but continued to glare casting their shadow over the crowd and I musn’t the son of Jupiter the face of Mars the mighty conqueror of the barbaric west laid waste the enemies of the people of Rome Calvinus the magnif—

“Memento mori…”

I must I must I must the way of the ancestors there is no shame no shame no shame no shame the lingering redness of Mars across the battlefield night is falling hold onto the horses tighter the reins the army marching in red the crimson son the rock falling upwards cannot go upwards can it? No it cannot

“A wise man once said the rock can never be trained to move upwards, no matter how many times it has been thrown,” they had said to me when I still had my bulla.

“Why not?” I had asked.

“That is simply the way it is done,” they had said to me.

“But what if it wants to go up?” I had asked them.

“It does not matter what it wants—it cannot choose when everything tells it to fall down,” they had said to me. “Besides… a rock cannot want.”

“Let them have their pillage. I cannot stop them. I must let them do what is… as expected,” I said to him whilst my knees soaked in the freshly strewn lake lingering in the dying sun with fifty thousand lives extinguished before the second began to be counted.

“A marvelous victory.”

A marvelous victory resounding with the name Calvinus and the thoughts of shimmering gold armor adorning the triumphal column with his immortal visage atop it—

“Memento mori…”

The sheep was led up to the altars the knife in my hand gleaming like the sword of Mars hanging above us all perhaps there is no expectation

But their faces are looking at me, looking at me with the grave approval of the ancestors to place this knife into the neck of this beast perhaps there is a—but no—there is only the way of the ancestors I must I could not have

I could not have the blood is dripping on my hands

“There are fifty thousand dead and eight hundred prisoners still alive mostly women and children.” The camp sat upon the hill looking over the field, the rancid and pungent grotesqueness of death sifting through the night breezes.

“The men forgot to place a barricade around the camp,” I had said.

“But there are no more enem—… yes, imperator I will see to it that it is done,” he had said. “The town was burned to the ground, as you wanted, imperator.”

“As I wanted?” I had said. “But, of course, that is always done. I could not more avoid it than a lion change his roar.”

The night was drifting away again, the moonlight pale and condescending

Of course there was no alternative the choice was not mine the choice was not mine to make not mine no choice the way of the ancestors compel compel push push force force like a blacksmith’s hammer to anvil the rock must fall the rock must fall yes it always falls

“Memento mori…”

men are not rocks

______________________________________________________________

Nickolas Urpí is the author of the literary war fantasy novel The Legend of Borach and has been published in HCE Review literary journal, Soft Cartel magazine, Ripples in Space magazine, and The Fall Line magazine. His writings fuse his studies of ancient history, literature, and philosophy with his crafted prose to immerse the reader in the world of his fiction through vivid settings and characters. An alumnus of the University of Virginia, he resides in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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Peter Bridges

Mount Hope

“In the year 1675, Philip, sachem of the Wampanoags, then residing at Mount Hope, in the present town of Bristol, in Rhode Island, began the most destructive war ever waged by the Indians upon the infant colonies.”
–Thrilling Incidents in American History, J.W. Barber, 1860.

My jaw’s on Cotton Mather’s table,
Skull and brain all gone.
Yet this bone shall speak of tragedy
Though Mather’s not at home,
None to hear but a harmless sparrow
Perched on the sill between a narrow dry room
And a world abounding in green life:
O hear my skull’s rage
O hear the horrid history,
Sons of my murderers,
Dry men in the deadly towns!

My father lived in the loveliest land,
The country of the bay and forest
Rich in fish and deer and songbirds.
Our old men sang proud histories,
Our kings were wise and fearless,
Our girls were merry-matchless,
Our young men gallant, reckless
In the kingdom of corn and maples,
Whales in the bay, bears after berries on woods’ edges:
A kingdom complete, at peace with all its spirits.

I was a boy who knew he’d be a king.
At seventeen I walked north to the mountains
And climbed past hawks to ledges at the high point of our world.
I lay all night on the granite, entranced by the cold white moon,
The silver perfect Mother,
Twin of the tranquil sea:

But sudden came a flight of birds across the moon,
Of cloud-high flyers fleeing north.
I knew that this meant peril for my people.

And now came many white men from the sea
Moving into the east land of our cousins dead of plague,
And now more floods of white men to the west and to the north
Till we lay ringed with dangerous towns
And the braves who stood against them
Fell to slaughter, like the Pequods,
The land fast losing its own people
While the soil stayed soaked with the blood
Of our dead boys.

I came to kingship in a hopeless kingdom.
My people asked me, shall we go
And seek a new land near our cousins
At the cold lakes of the north?
Or shall we stay and seek humble peace
While these axe-men fell our forests
And foreboding fills our dreams–
Or shall we fight, and throw the white men in the sea
And burn their intricate houses, break their careful fences
Until the land gets right again,
Ours again, purified and free?

Philip, the colonists called me
For they saw that I should lead my land
Like some old famous king of white men;
But my name is Metacomet
And I swore to the soul of Massasoit my father
That I should rival his wisdom with my cunning,
His kindness with my vengeance,
His bravery with my own bravery and daring
Until the clapboard houses burned
And the town men all sank bloodless in the sea.

Listen, sparrow, to this jaw, this bone:
There is no truth in Boston,
Only preachers full of fever like this Mather.
There is no truth for red men.
To us the English offered drink or death or exile.
My son was sold to slavery in Jamaica,
My wife then died a beggar on the edge of a bitter town.
They would not even give her back my body.

My throne was a great rock by our village.
I sat comfortable in its curved place
And the strength of granite came to me
And the souls of my fathers said to me
Make war, kill these colonies of toadstools;
Mow down the murderers of our people.

I fell on them with tomahawks and guns
Crushing their fat yellow heads,
Snapping their necks like a wolf who’s got a grouse,
A wolf who knows no master in his forest,
My brother, keen Ontoquas.

We failed, and fell.
Yet I live ever on this Bay
And in the calm of valleys, in the clover meadows,
In bees and lynx and falcons.
I am the freedom of the Maker
The constancy of the granite mountains
The first green shoot in spring
The wild loon calling on the lake
In long lament.

______________________________________________________________

Peter Bridges received degrees from Dartmouth College and Columbia University, served as an Army private in Europe, and then spent three decades as a career Foreign Service officer on four continents, ending as the American ambassador to Somalia. His memoir of Somalia and his biographies of two once-famous Americans, John Moncure Daniel and Donn Piatt, were published by Kent State University Press. In 2013 he self-published a volume of a hundred Sonnets from the Elk Mountains. His poems, articles, and reviews have appeared in American Diplomacy, Eclectica, Michigan Quarterly Review, Mountain Gazette, Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. “Mount Hope” is an account of what most American historians have called ”King Philip’s War,” as might have been told by Metacomet, whose jawbone did in fact land on the table of Cotton Mather the Puritan.

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Everything I Never Told You

Written by Celeste Ng

Published by Penguin Books

Review by Meredith Allard

 

Some readers may argue against my classifying Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng as historical fiction. The story takes place in the not-so-distant past of the 1970s, but as someone who lived through those years reading the story did bring on a sense of nostalgia. In some ways, life seemed more simple then. There were no cell phones, no social media. You had actually use a rotary phone to contact people, and there were these things called typewriters, kids, where you needed ribbons and messy liquid paper to fix those pesky typos. We can have a discussion about how far in the past something has to be in order to qualify as historical fiction. We can also discuss whether or not nostalgia in itself is enough to qualify something as historical fiction. My rationale for including Everything I Never Told You as historical fiction is that, while the story about a family mourning the death of its teenage daughter is timeless, the story itself may have looked different if it took place in the 21st century.

Teenager Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, but being the favorite child isn’t as wonderful for Lydia as you might think. She carries the weight of both of her parents unfulfilled dreams—her father’s insecurities being about Chinese and feeling as though he never fit in, and her mother’s unfulfillment at feeling destined to the life of a traditional housewife, thereby never meeting her true potential as a woman in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. When Lydia is found drowned, the carefully woven family fabric begins to unravel, and everyone in the family, including Lydia’s older brother and younger sister, is forced to confront what they knew, or what they thought they knew, about their family.

Everything I Never Told You is a family story about how often we don’t know the people we’re supposed to be closest to. Ng does a wonderful job sharing each character’s perspectives, and we understand James and Marilyn, or at least we understand why they acted as they did. Yes, it would have been nice if there were more self-reflection among the characters while Lydia was alive, but that’s not particularly realistic. Often, we don’t recognize where we could have done better until after the fact. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, we may even see some of our own family dynamics reflected in the story. There’s that old saying from Maya Angelou—when people do, they do the best they know how to do. That’s what James and Marilyn do in Everything I Never Told You—they did the best they knew how to do. And that’s all anyone can do in any given moment.

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Kristine Rae Anderson

Amelia Earhart Standing on the Roof of the Mission Inn

Riverside, California, March 1, 1936

 

“From a vantage spot high above the parapets”

–handwritten photo caption

 

Several floors above the ground, she stands appraising rows of orchards

                                                at the altitude of her comfort.

She knows sky: blowing fringe of treetops and solid, sloping housetops,

                                                how desire can lift one up.

Feet anchored on shingles, one hand resting on an ornate lantern

                                                hanging eye-level,

she views the valley, then beyond, toward, as the caption says,

                                                “distant snow-covered mountains.”

She’s thirty-eight, looking out from “a vantage spot”—

                                                  thinking what?

“I have a feeling,” she would say the next year, “that there is just about

                                                  one more good flight left in my system . . . .”

 

Another first: she—a woman—will pilot around the globe.  From Oakland to Oakland,

                                                   eastward.

She leaves late spring. On July 2, 1937, sailing above the Pacific, navigating clouds,

                                                 visibility limited.

Below, miles and miles of open-mouthed ocean.  Down there, somewhere, Howland Island,

                                                  tiny dot of land—her vital fuel.

“We are running north and south,” she reports to the coast guard ship Itasca.  8:45 a.m.

                                                  After, the crackling radio, silent.

What does she sense in those last dear minutes? Maybe she looks for a way;

                                                there’s always been a way, a rent in fate to slip through.

She’s glided over continents and seas, covered most of the world from heaven,

                                                vantage spots tenuous and rare.

Only seven thousand miles from success, only three weeks and a day from turning forty.

                                                Her engine stops.

In the air’s embrace, she always knew: she could lose. Now, here, from high above,

                                                heavy with gravity, falling.

_____________________________________________________________

Kristine Rae Anderson’s poetry has appeared in Soundings East, ReedCrab Creek Review, and the anthology Active Voices IV, among other publications. An award-winning journalist (first place award in criticism from the Society of Professional Journalists, San Diego Chapter, and  award for arts story from the San Diego Press Club) and award-winning poet (Tomales Bay Fellowship, Fishtrap Fellowship, and first place in Southern Indiana Review’s Mary C. Mohr Poetry Contest), she teaches English at Norco College in southern California.

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Daughters of the Witching Hill

Written by Mary Sharratt

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review by Meredith Allard

 

I was drawn to Daughters of the Witching Hill because of my interest in witch hunts and witch trials, and Mary Sharratt did not disappoint. The story is based on historical details and transcripts from the real-life 1612 Pendle witch hunt.

The novel starts with an interesting premise. What if some of the people accused of witchcraft in the 1612 Pendle witch hunt actually practiced magic? Daughters of the Witching Hill begins with Bess Southerns, known as Mother Demdike, a poor woman living with her children in Pendle Forest. She discovers a familiar, delves into magic, and develops a reputation as a cunning woman, which is considered different than a witch because cunning women use their powers to heal and not hurt people. The magic works both for and against Bess and those she cares for most. Bess’ granddaughter Alizon, is afraid of the magic her grandmother possesses, but Bess’ best friend since girlhood embraces the dark side of magic. Bess is betrayed by her own family—some who testify against her willingly, and some who don’t. Bess, Alizon, and others are accused of witchcraft and may suffer the ultimate consequence because of one man determined to make his name as a witch finder.

The novel caught me from the first page through Bess’ narrative voice. When Alizon takes over the narrative later in the story, her voice is just as powerful. Mary Sharratt does what the best historical novelists do so well—she weaves facts of the time period, details about food, clothing, work—seamlessly into the plot. Through Bess, we see what life was like for poor people in late 16th and early 17th century England. Work was hard to find, and poor people had to travel from place to place asking if there was any work. There were times when Bess and her family went hungry. There were famines when many people died. Magic provided Bess and her family with an income as well as some respect—at least until Bess begins to age and lose some of her potency as a healer. As someone from the poor end of the socioeconomic spectrum, Bess and her family are vulnerable to the whims of those with higher status. Sharratt does a fine job showing the precarious nature of life for poor people like Bess and Alizon.

If you’re interested in witch hunts or witch trials, you will love Daughters of the Witching Hill. This is also a great read for those interested in 16th and 17th-century English life.

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Ann Wachter

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt Roosevelt

The Guest

 

From blood splattered cups to peace without borders,

she came and she went, leaving love in all quarters.

        ~Ann Wachter

 

Home, home swirls like a knot entwined

upon a crab tree trunk, beckoning me to climb,

climb its woody tome, its musky scent

scraping my knees as I grasp branch

after branch, lifting my body upward, unwinding,

fashioning, fashioning home, home’s brief embrace.

 

Bell’s chime above a bridge, a bridge leaving home,

home where crossing’s bent arm blockades

passages’ girth never caressing infancy’s

bay, breaking me against ocean’s waves;

crashing rocks ahead, squeezing my brows tight

like a bull dog’s whimper after facing down terrors,

hoping mental plates hold until beacon’s next light —

never knowing home, home.

 

My childhood home was homeless haven —

Father’s devotion held me steady for a time;

motherless challenges crept about each hideaway’s open door.

Good granny, good aunties welcomed my spirited vigor

but left no lies lying next to my bed.

My parents became the lessons I learned,

reflection’s bequest from all I’d yearned.

 

Each starling day bids me express myself beyond —

natal down plucked away, plucked away

tranquility’s delights.  Slippery shaft — abroad place to abroad

place abroad — I slice headlong, reserving energy

from foundation’s edge — home, home — wing’s consonant

fit, one feather with the other, ceding my flight beyond

cloud’s mist, never beyond home.  Home.  Home.

 

I stand tall, discerning shades of grey;

bleak shadows casting home, home along golden paths, spiraling

spiraling about pillars, pillars of salt wielded upon others’ homes, homes.

 

I manage well caring for downtrodden folks,

warming them with my swaddlings, my swaddlings.

My sinewy form strengthens as I climb home’s spiral stairs;

chiseled boxes — up one, step, up one, step, up one — glowing, white,

clouds absorb my expertly transformed, feathered foils —

fastened with silk threads — never weak, I open my ears and do not peep.

 

Distant cousin’s proposal gathers me — home, home.

One tidbit — one challenging, charming vice;

my new home, my home,

home holds enchantment’s price.

 

Mansion’s masterings abeam Abel Brown’s shanty-like cot;

next my home, home — Val-Kill’s  lodgings, my nest — dancing,

telling stories,  picnics under home’s pines

floating ‘long river’s twines.

 

Glistening meanderings, watery trails cycling home, home;

mingle in pond’s ripplings, trickling salamanders, dragonflies, crickets.

Grasp sextant’s skillful span, angle human right’s merits dangling above cliff’s cure;

give home, home, home to those whose tomb contains evils and horrors hidden deep —

hell revealed to the world after chimney’s sweep.  Battle fear and its alllies —

those that tend hell’s garden with a blow-filled glance;

those hoarding gold coins to purchase contempt — carry me home, home to serve and serve;

knot imbedded in the old tree trunk; my keep’s chattel, my home, my home.

 

______________________________________________________________

Ann Wachter is an ever-maturing writer of poetry who completed her Bachelor of Arts with John Carroll University, University Heights, Ohio, 1982. She developed her craft by attending Iowa Summer Writing Workshops sponsored by the University of Iowa, Iowa City and plans to embark on her MFA journey. Her publications include Catharsis and Dream from a Steel Beam, circa 2015, Highland Park Poetry Muses Gallery.

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Michael Landsman

The Heremyte’s Preyer

I

Nowthe hit stoode

that alle oure lond

that we doon looken upon with love

dide hyde beneathe the sea;

and alle the nobles of this reaume

dide noot yet seen dawnyng of day.

And alle that tyme, no mannes

had worde nor speche

nor walked upon the lond,

but alle stoode silent and unknowen.

II

And hit ypassed that londe

and mannes bothe dide comen to bee

for Goddes sake,

and alle the names mannes spaken dide preyse

this makyng, thise grete werkes.

So strenge dide they beren Him love

that they coude no thyng doon, noot seyen,

withouten thynken of Hym; so Strenge

as was this love, so goodlich dide mannes alle staye.

III

Yet hit comen to passe and to soone we knowen

that we dide straye and love noot thise Godde and Makyre,

And too soone oure speche, so ful of preyse

and preyer biforn, we fill with lyes

and flaterynge for gayne, and too soone

we dide desteyned  this Goddes’ makynge;

Nowthe oure sorowe comen to laten,

and we lackken herte to maken oure giltes

to brent or bittre; and alle manneskynde

han lost thir wey.

IV

Wote welle whate I do seyne:

this Godde and Makere loves thee well

so must thou Him and His Creation,

for only thus will thou be Strenge inne Goodnesse :

and it is beste to be fore goode

and hate the evylle that we doon

as alle mennes must knowne.

Yete I thinke He will love us

nathelesse, for alle the evylle which we doe,

 if we turne from badde to goode.

IV

I made this song in heremytes cave,

cannot this worlde abyde namoore,

but only lyke litel birdes song

soune in otheres eares,

biforn the lond ones mo

in silence dimmes,

no word, nor speche,

to soune His preyse,

unknowne evermor.

______________________________________________________________

Michael Landsman taught high school English in New York City for most of his career. He’s a NYC native and presently lives in the Bronx. He’s in the final stages of writing his first novel. Mr. Landsman’s short story “The Great Machine” was published in the Scarlet Leaf Review in August 2016, the Indiana Voice Journal in October 2016 and Potluck Mag in December 2016.

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Andrea Wyatt

Mr. Siegal’s Sharpshooters: First Battle

1. 

Mr. Howard arrived during seeding
to exhort the young men of Ripley
to take up arms; he wore wired-rimmed glasses
and city clothes, dusty from his long journey.
He carried a strongbox and a pile of broadsides.

Your country needs you!
Protect the western frontier!
Free uniforms, Free firearms!
Stand up with President Lincoln!
Twenty-five dollars bounty to Enlist!
Cost what it may, Our nation must be saved!

Mr. Howard sat at a makeshift table that Saturday
in front of Jenkin’s Feed Lot,
and Frankie and Louis and I signed up;
Mama cried and said I was too young, I wasn’t to go,
Frankie’s Daddy beat him—who will work the fields, he raged.

Louis, who was an orphan, and lived with Reverend Loomey and his wife,
stood up at Methodist meeting and said he was going to war;
the girls rushed to his side afterwards,
where he stood by the lilacs, and said how brave he was.

My sister Maggie started knitting him socks.
I will be back for you in a fortnight, said Mr. Howard,
meanwhile practice your march, and then he left
on the next stage to Washington.

Weary with dread as daylight looms
behind a stand of American elm,
leafed out, filled with the dawn’s light,
we are preparing for battle

It’s August now, and it’s been a hot summer,
but there’s a breeze this morning,
and as we brush the dirt from our uniforms,
we talk about fishing along the Kanawha.

2/

Captain comes to check our feet.
Make certain there’s no holes, he says,
a soldier can’t fight on sore feet
and have a bite to eat, boys,
a soldier can’t fight without a bit of meat

When the drummer starts to beat, we take our place on line
rifles to the ready, shoulders touching;
three sets of eyes strain to see the firing command,
the bells ring out and firing commences

We take our time to aim and a rhythm overcomes us,
aim, fire, load, aim, fire, load and the air
gets heavy with dust and smoke

My fingers ache, holding the rifle tight,
and grit in our eyes makes it hard to see the enemy
who’ve crouched down low in shallow holes
they’ve dug, and our ears ring from the
din of screams and guns

The drummer carries water to the boys on the line
and once an hour the captain comes by;
we’re holding on, boys he says, we’re holding on,
I believe they are retreating, I believe we’ve got them licked.

It’s closer to dusk than dawn when the battle is done,
and we stretch our sore legs and look around
to see who’s left and see who’s down

The medics hurry into the field with stretchers
to carry the bloody wounded away, we take off our boots and socks
as Frankie begins to sing:

“All quiet along the Potomac tonight,
where the soldiers lie peacefully dreaming,
and their tents in the rays of the clear autumn moon,
and the light of the campfires are gleaming.
A tremulous sigh as the gentle night wind
thro’ the forest leaves slowly is creeping,
while the stars up above, with their glittering eyes,
keep guard o’er the army while sleeping.”

______________________________________________________________

Andrea Wyatt is the author of three poetry collections. Her work has appeared lately in Clackamas, Gargoyle, and Gravel. Wyatt’s poem “Sunday Morning Gingerbread” was nominated for a 2015 Pushcart. She works for the National Park Service in Washington, DC and is associate editor of the poetry journal By&By.

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The Monarchy Revolution

By Abbey Serena

Forty-four years before Prince Albert draws in his final breath and sends the entirety of England into a period of mourning that lasts for the remainder of the century, a curse is placed upon the monarchy. What this curse is, and why it has come, none of the royals know. It comes in the form of a magic man—perhaps remnants of the Romantics, whose eyes would have glazed lovingly at the sight of him, for all of their opium-induced theories would have been proven true. This man is not altogether a man—and, for the sake of history, he is truthfully not real at all, except in his ability to rot certain aspects of the royals’ lives. He brings with him misery in the form of death. Queen Victoria said in her diary, after her assassination attempt on June 10, 1840, “Just before the 2nd shot was fired… or rather more while he fired, dear Albert turned towards me, squeezing my hand, exclaiming ‘My God! Don’t be alarmed.’” Why not alarmed? Why not fear for the end of a reign so filled with peace that not a single war was started, that the people stopped breaking their bones over their work, and that the monarchy was stabilized and expanded by the nine children for whom Victoria laboriously expanded and contracted her body? Why not be alarmed at the threat of an end? Prince Albert never told us, the readers of his German diaries and the scholars of history, why he commanded his wife, the Queen, to not be alarmed by death contained in a bullet.

Here, I must depart from you, reader, and have you choose for yourself if the cursed man was at fault for all of the wrongdoings that will happen forthcoming, or if the figures that I will portray should have taken responsibility for their actions. The question that I have for you, and that I’m certain Prince Albert posed within his own mind, is if fate interfered in the decades-long span of time in which this story takes place.

 * * * * *

The year was 1817, and the hour had grown so late that almost all of the light inside of the Palladian mansion, Claremont, was snuffed out. The young Prince Leopold doubted that anyone in the entire English nation slept tonight. Seated in an upholstered chair that had been placed out of the way of all of the people who rushed back and forth like ants raiding a basket of food and swiftly dodging death, Leopold stared straight ahead of himself at a portrait of a naked woman by an artist whose name he couldn’t recall. It occurred to him then that the female body was a strange, ugly, powerful weapon. They weren’t built for war, but they could both harvest life and destroy it using only their wombs.

The woman in the portrait reminded him of his own wife, Charlotte. Her hair was the same reddish-brown hue, and every tendril appeared like a flashing ribbon that she had tied to her crown like decorative ornaments. This nameless figure, too, was built with broad shoulders and a square torso. Her breasts—misshapen, pink-tipped lumps—pointed sadly down to a fat belly that might have been caused by pregnancy or tarts.

Everyone abruptly stopped moving. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the door to the bedchamber where his wife was giving birth crack open. The figure that emerged was unsightly. He was a short man—no taller than the average woman—cloaked from head to toe in a wool coat. His back was slumped over and heavily knotted near his shoulder blades. A pomaded, white wig sat atop his head, the face of which nearly made Leopold cringe with its gruesome appearance. The man had two swollen flaps where his lips should have been, and his cheeks were furred with dark, coarse hair.

In the crook of the man’s arm was a swaddled bundle. Leaning on his cane, the man staggered over to Leopold and extended his arm without saying a word. Leopold dumbly held out his hands and the man placed his burden into them. Looking upward, Leopold examined the weathered, blackened skin and the silvery, damp eyes of the physician who had attended his wife during her labor. Looking at the bundle, he pushed back a swath of blanket and stared into the bluish, deathlike visage of his baby. Knowing from the silence that came from within the bedchamber that Charlotte hadn’t survived the birth, Leopold tilted his head back and gazed into the physician’s pale eyes. “What is to be done now?” Leopold, ever the strategist, whispered.

The good physician’s face flickered with interest, but still he remained mute. Seeing that he would receive no council from the man, he clutched his child against his breast and leaned his forehead into the heel of his hand. As water slid down Leopold’s cheeks, the physician turned and strode down the passageway. Between thumps of his cane, there came a steady tapping noise, as if he was wearing wooden shoes

* * * * *

In Belgium, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, sat with his mistress at their breakfast table. He puffed on a cigar while Julie had for herself a plate of meat, eggs, bread, and sweets. Glancing at his companion, Edward exhaled heavily and reclined in his chair. Julie was a fine Frenchwoman, if not a bit theatrical. She was a jealous viper; she would never be outdone by another woman. On this morning, her dark hair was coiled atop her head and she wore a cambric gown that scooped up her breasts and thrust them upward. He loved Julie because she frequently asked him about the time that he had spent serving in the military.

Just as Julie finished her breakfast, someone knocked on the door. One of the staff hastened to answer it, and then appeared in the threshold of the breakfasting room. “My lord, a man comes with the post. He requests an audience with you in the parlor.”

“He does?” Edward asked with a crooked tilt to his eyebrows. He slanted a sardonic smile at Julie before rising. “I’ll see him at once!” As he followed his housekeeper toward the parlor, he wondered whatever a man bringing his post could want with him. He entered the room and found, sitting on his couch, a dreadful creature who made a poor excuse for a human being. Instead of rising and bending himself over into a bow, the man remained where he was and lifted his silvery gaze to the duke. He had in his lap a sack of letters. Edward, who realized that he had been staring at the strange-looking, old man, came forward and greeted him, “Good friend! Rise and bow to me, and then we’ll talk of whatever matters you seek to discuss with me.”

Putting his cane forward, the man stood and held out the sack. Edward fathomed that the man must have been stupid with age and simply took the letters without pressing him to bow again. Then the man gestured for his other hand. He took from his coat what appeared to be The Morning Chronicle, and he placed it in Edward’s free hand. Edward glanced down at the paper and pushed his mouth to the side of his face when he saw, printed on the cover, a headline that spoke of Princess Charlotte’s untimely death.

Edward looked back at the man, who nodded his head and shuffled past, his cane leaving dents in the rococo pattern on the rug. The housekeeper assisted the man out of the house, and as soon as Edward heard the front door close, he sank onto the couch. Peering closer at the paper, Edward realized that his father’s other relations were swiftly reacting to the news of the poor princess’s death and starting a race for the next heir. Edward snorted at the thought of his relatives chasing after young women still in their time of breeding. All of them were obese and balding. Even to have a taste of the royal line, many women would not subject themselves to such a fate.

Stroking his chin, Edward contemplated his mistress. They had been together for a long time. But on the other hand, he was still in his prime. It would be simple for him to find another woman, and if he managed to produce an heir to the throne, he’d be financially set for the rest of his life. For such a long time, Edward had been existing in and out of various states of debt. Surely Julie would understand.

As if his thoughts about her had summoned her, Julie appeared in the doorway, an apprehensive expression drawn onto her face. “What was that about?” She asked, her French accent lilting every word in that sweet way that he enjoyed.

“Ah, my dear girl! There was only a death in the English royal family. There are at least two of those every year, as you know. It is nothing to be worried about just yet.” He motioned for her to come to him, and like the affectionate woman that she always was, she floated over to him and propped herself upon his knee. To remove all of the worry from her head, he kissed her mouth and burned her cheek with his stubble.

* * * * * 

“Wait here.” Edward made a staying motion to his wife, Victorie, who wriggled backward on her seat in the carriage and stared at the back of his head as he alighted. A notch worried the space between her eyebrows. Making a little, sighing noise out of her throat, she rested her hands in her lap and looked down at the curved mound that had become her belly. They had waited far too long. She told Edward that they should have left for Kensington at least two months ago, but her stubborn husband had struck forth on a project to renovate several of the houses in Coburg.

Suddenly, the carriage door swung open again. A gust of wind rushed in and nearly blew off her cap. Tightening the strings, Victorie gazed at the man who stood in the doorway. He was half-concealed in shadow, and the little sliver of his face that she could see was matted with hair so thick that it almost appeared like animal fur. She stiffened. Where had her husband gone?

“What would you, sir?” She asked softly, her voice tainted with her German accent.

He stretched his hand out, his gloved fingers curled around a bit of paper. She took the paper and looked down at it. It was heavily folded and creased, as if it had spent the majority of its existence inside of someone’s clothing. She could feel the warmth of someone’s skin radiating from it, and there was a stain of sweat, though just a small one, on the corner. Looking back up, she frowned when she realized that she was alone once more.

Opening the paper, she read,

Madame,

            My heart yearns for you. The baby is almost due, and yet I am still with you.

            Yours,

            Prince Edward, Duke of Kent

Victorie’s eyelashes twitched as she contemplated the words contained within the scrap. Her hand smoothed over the curve of her belly. The baby inside rolled back and forth, just like the choppy waters over which they were trying to cross.

Edward entered the carriage again, rocking it as he took a seat across from her. Knocking the rain from his coat, he said in his loud, commanding voice, “Strange fellow, our coachman! He is silent, but efficient.” Without another word, he tipped his head back, pushed his hat down so that it covered his eyes, and, she assumed, tried to fall asleep.

Frowning deeply, Victorie leaned against the window and shut her eyes. Had she made a mistake to marry an Englishman? It was too late to have those sorts of thoughts. She had fixed her bed, and now she must lie in it, or so she thought George Herbert said.

* * * * * 

When Drina—later to take on her German roots and go by the name of Victoria—was seven-months-old, she spent most of her days chasing light across the floor. This day was no different than any other, and she remembered it with a distaste, remembered how suddenly her father had passed after this particular day. The little princess had been set down by someone—she couldn’t remember whose pair of arms that she had just been cradled in—and, upon seeing a cat streak across the floor and hunt down a moving stream of yellow that came in through the cracked window, Drina frantically pawed her way across the floor and sat herself down on the light. The cat, whose prey had just been squashed beneath the bottom of the new princess, gave her a stiff look and slinked off.

Peering downward, Drina was surprised to find that the beam of light had not been caught, but had slithered its way out and was now draped across her lap! She swatted her own leg. When her toy didn’t even give a shudder, she made a grumpy noise and flipped back onto her hands and knees. She began to prowl around again. Everywhere around her, people chatted and chortled at themselves as they drank their afternoon tea.

She poked her nose up and gazed at the faces of people that she didn’t recognize, and then the warm, dignified expression on her mother’s countenance. An old man was seated in a chair next to the lit hearth. She remembered him, remembered when her mother had scooped her up and plopped her on the man’s knee. Drina had giggled, thinking that it looked like his face was melting. She liked that old man. Even though her mother had chastised her, the old man had merely chuckled, rubbed her head, and dropped a bit of spittle on the ruffled collar that he kept tucked beneath his coat.

Padding her way through the booted feet and making sure that she wasn’t kicked, Drina kept looking up. Little did she know that she would continue having to look up for the rest of her life. Upon seeing her daughter, Victorie let out a delighted, cooing noise that was very flattering to Drina’s ears. Spinning around, she hobbled over to her mother, who bent and picked up the child. Suddenly, Drina was accosted with kisses and tickles.

“Baroness Lehzen, why is the child out of her nursery?” said a dark, masculine voice from across the room. Turning her head, Drina looked at her father, whose withered, pale face shone starkly against the tan-skinned, round-faced Germans who had taken over Kensington.

Another figure that Drina hadn’t before noticed stood from his chair by the window. Twisting in that direction, she glowered at her uncle, the Duke of Sussex. He was a frightening man, though as of yet, he’d never given her any true reason to dislike him. It was his wig. As he came over, he hunched against his cane and lumbered across the floor as if it pained him to move. His head was covered in an unwashed, tattered wig that smelled like mothballs and human sweat.

Realizing what the uncle intended to do, Victorie gripped her child tighter and said airily, “Oh, that’s all right, my lord. Drina is being good. Please, sit down and don’t trouble yourself with removing her.”

The only reply that he offered the duchess were his short breaths of air as he approached and bent for Drina. Smelling his wig, she began to squirm as he lifted her, supported her with one arm, and clung to his cane with his other hand. The tail of his wig fell over his shoulder and brushed against her neck, sending chills racing up and down her spine. As he took her from the room, she beat her fists against his chest and wailed so loudly that the next estate could have heard her, and yet her uncle wasn’t deterred by her tantrum. She found herself drifting farther and farther away from her mother, who remained seated, looking rigid, bewildered, and nervous all in one flittering expression.

As Drina was swept from the room, she noticed her mother glimpse over at her husband, who was leaning heavily against a wall, taking in shallow breaths. Not long ago, her father had bustled into the house, shouting, “There is a fortune teller! Will no one come with me and see this voodoo?” And when no one went, for fear of the dark magic that permeated the devilish sibyls who concocted those fortunes, her father went alone; when he came back later, he was much more sullen, his mouth turned downward. Drina overheard him say, “The sorceress told me that ‘This year, two members of the royal family will die.’” Drina didn’t know what it meant to die, but her father’s face suggested that it was perhaps an unpleasant experience. She didn’t think about these things until many years had passed, but, in that moment, she still felt a change in the air as she drifted next to the man who was already decaying within his own skin.

* * * * *

When the young queen was twenty-one-years-old, her husband, Prince Albert, took her out in a carriage for a trip through Hyde Park. She and her companion sat aloft on an elevated seat; with this being an open-carriage, Victoria had a full view of the park and the people that meandered through it. Many of them waved at her, happy grins sprouting on their faces as she and the handsome prince passed by. Several children, twirling long ribbons around, let out screeching laughter and chased briefly after the carriage. Victoria extended her hand toward them.

“Hello!” She called in a bright, melodic voice. Turning back around, she glanced at her husband, who had his hand cupped over his eyebrows. In his usual way, he studied the movement of the carriage beneath him, the way that it swerved around trees, but never tipped. Laughing softly, she asked, “Would you stop studying everything and enjoy the day?”

He flicked his eyes up to her and pressed a crooked smile onto his lips, and then went back to studying. Shaking her head, Victoria looked out again and gazed at a few Arabian horses in the distance. They were beautiful, wild creatures, their backs twitching as they learned to barely tolerate the saddles that were placed upon them.

A gunshot rang out and bounded off of each of the trees. Spooked, the horses bucked their heads and let out shrill whinnies. Looking to the right, Victoria squinted at a man who was holding a gun. Suddenly, Albert grabbed her arm in a grip that nearly hurt and thrust her downward. “My God! Don’t be alarmed!” He shouted.

Her whalebone corset wasn’t made to be flexed, and so it dug into her stomach, which was four-months swollen with life. Gasping, Victoria struggled against him and heard a scuffle from what seemed to be all around. When he let her back up, she immediately looked toward the gun-holding man and saw that he was on the ground, writhing beneath the bodies of several other men.

Her gaze flew to Albert, who was staring at her with eyes as large as saucers. In a matter of seconds, she was trapped against his chest, his heartbeat ricocheting through her entire body. Even though people were looking, she flung her arms around him, her bonnet loosening from her head and falling away.

Peering over Albert’s shoulder at the man, she felt a quiver in her very bones as she had a moment of recognition. It was like she had seen him somewhere, at some other period in her life. There, on the ground, was a man garbed in a thick coat, though it was an usually warm summer and even her lightest, linen dresses drew perspiration to her skin. His head was topped with a dark, thick-brimmed hat. His face, mostly concealed from her, was turned slightly so that she could see his chin, and on his chin was hair so coarse that it might have been peeled off of an Alaskan fox and attached to his chin with sticky pomade.

* * * * *

Would there be no peace for her yet? On the second of December, in 1861, Victoria perched on the sofa in the Blue Room, clasping a copy of Sir Walter Scott’s Peveril of the Peak. Tucking a length of hair behind her ear, she read softly to her husband, who had lie in his bed for weeks. She trembled a little as she held the book, occasionally looking up at Albert, whose brow was wrinkled with agony and whose skin was soaked with sweat. “What I wouldn’t give to see you well,” she whispered.

She existed in and out of consciousness for the next few days. Albert’s face became thick and puffy as he wasted away at the hands of a disease that she was certain the doctors were incorrectly diagnosing. They called it typhoid. Had it been typhoid, Albert would have been gone months ago, when he first began to complain about the pain in his stomach. He was starting to look how he did when she first met him; a young, lanky boy with a little bit of dough in his cheeks. She had fallen in love with that version of him, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted him back.

Come the ninth of December, Dr. Jenner exclaimed, “He is getting on favorably, thank God!” When Victoria entered the room, her heart pumping hard, she heard her husband mumbling to himself in French about war. As she looked sharply at the man that she had enlisted to save her husband, he assured her, “This is to be expected.”

On the eleventh, the middle-aged queen was awoken by her servants, who said that the doctors were asking if the children could come see their father. And at this point, she took up life in another world entirely and followed people around with a shuffling, stooped gait, and sat herself down by Albert’s bedside, becoming a piece of cold architecture. When hours went by and his rough breathing didn’t change, she started to get up, but he suddenly reached out and said desperately in a French-German-English combination, “Please don’t leave.”

Tears came to her eyes and burned her with their salt. “Give me this respite. I can’t stand to see you this way. I will be back.” Years later, she would regret leaving him just then, but as it was, she fled from the room and retreated to her own private space, where she was free to deny that her beloved husband was dying.

When he stopped taking as much air in later that evening, Victoria seemed to sense it through the very walls that separated them. She hurried back to her husband, brushing by a new doctor who had been brought in—this one dressed in a heavy coat, with a hat tipped down over his face. He carried beneath his arm a valise, and she nearly knocked it loose as she raced past him.

Entering the Blue Room, Victoria flung herself down by Albert’s bed and clutched onto his hand. “Est ist das kleine Frauchen,” she begged, returning to her German language, not realizing that she had returned to it. Albert, though his eyes were sealed shut and he was as still as a boulder, trembled his lips, just slightly, as if wanting to respond to her plea for kisses.

Someone touched her shoulder.

Whirling around, Victoria released a vulgar sound at the sight of the coated doctor, whose face was concealed beneath the brim of his hat. She thought she might have moved—maybe burst out of the room—maybe stayed where she was—she thought she recalled one of her daughters calling her back over to the bed—placing her hand within Albert’s. “Oh, this is death,” she whispered, “I know it. I have seen this before.”

And in the next few minutes, Albert inhaled several breaths, before exhaling deeply. His head tilted to the side, pressing into the feather pillow, and then he was quiet.

Sinking to the ground, Victoria let out several loud sobs and kissed all over her husband’s forehead, before the new doctor flung a sheet over him. Someone took her away from Albert, lifted her, and brought her into the Red Room. Her children were near her. One of them was in her arms. She pushed him away. She believed that it was Alfred. He looked too much like his father. He had his stern brow.

The year was 1861, and the hour had grown so late that almost all of the light inside of the heath stone castle, Windsor, was snuffed out.

______________________________________________________________

Abbey Serena is a senior at Bowling Green State University, where she studies Creative Writing and Scientific & Technical Communication. She is an editor on the staff of Prairie Margins and Mid-American Review, two national literary magazines. She has an upcoming publication in Ofi Press. Copperfield Review is her second publication.

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Nancy Levinson

EMMA LAZARUS

1849-1887

Liberty Enlightening the World

 

I

Think her not a poor refugee   

this modest, proper, gloved woman

of Jewish faith born on American soil. 

And if she wore fame at all,

it hung brief in her shortened life.

Her rise to glory followed only in time

when her poetic words were inscribed

on the Statue of Liberty welcoming

the “wretched refuse” to the shores

of freedom’s land a century and half ago.

 

II

Hers was a privileged life in New York City,   

dressed in upper-class, tutored at home

in classics, piano, and the arts. 

Like well-heeled women of the day,

the cultivated Emma dwelt sheltered from the world. 

Yet how she longed to accomplish

something meaningful, something of importance!

 Who am I? she wondered.  What purpose is mine?

 

III

One day a rabbi brought her to visit

Castle Garden on Ward’s Island, and there

on the tiny isle in New York harbor

where shiploads of weary, bewildered

European immigrants arrived, Emma witnessed   

deep shades of darkness, such as she had never seen

or knew existed.  Culture shock it was later called. 

Amongst the impoverished and the throngs

of her ‘co-religionists’  who’d escaped   

the Russian Czar’s marauding Cossack soldiers,

murdering Jews young and old,

burning their synagogues and villages—

she was profoundly moved.  In short time, too,

she learned how iniquities were spun

of intolerance and hate.

                                                                    

IV

No further need to wistfully ponder

her purpose. Emma found her voice.

She took up her pen, and with growing power

began writing on the human condition – verse,

essays and letters pleading for the refugee cause.

And with ferocity and depth she struck back

at mounting anti-Semitism.

 

V

Slowly a French ship made its way

across the Atlantic, carrying the gargantuan sections

of the statue – four-hundred and fifty tons in all –

designed and built by sculptor Auguste Bartholdi

which he’d called  liberty enlightening the world.

Assembling it was long delayed for lack of funds

needed to build a large, supporting pedestal—

a promise of America in accepting the gift from France.

 

What last efforts might then be made

to raise the coffers? Ah, a few thinking minds

prevailed.  A book!  A book of new poems

by writers of the day.  Auction to the highest bidder.

How pleased was Emma at the invitation

to make a contribution!  With purpose and devotion

she set to penning a poem:  The New Colossus,

ending with the eloquent and oft-recited verse:           

                                             

      Your Huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

      The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

      Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

      I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

VI

Yet by serendipity only fifteen years past

the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty [1886]

was her sonnet inscribed on the pedestal.

A New York patron of the arts chanced

upon the small book in a dusty antique shop,

and upon reading The New Colossus

arranged for its inscription.

But Emma lived not to know of her honor.

She had died of lymphoma, aged thirty-eight.

With her own beacon she welcomed

the desolate many to America,

to breathe her nation’s air of freedom.

Once adorned in fashion, then swathed in shroud,

the poetic voice of Emma Lazarus

rang out for all humanity.

______________________________________________________________

Nancy Levinson is the author of MOMENTS OF DAWN: A Poetic Narrative of Love & Family, Affliction & Affirmation, as well as numerous poems and stories that have appeared in publications including Poetica, Confrontation, Survivor’s ReviewDrunk Monkeys, Foliate Oak, and Rat’s Ass ReviewThree essays have appeared in anthologies, one of which garnered a Pushcart nomination.  Nancy lives in Los Angeles.
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