Tag Archives: historical poetry

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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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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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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Kika Dorsey

Hunger

Austria, 1946

 

I’m hungry all the time.

We forage in the Alps for mushrooms and elderberry blossoms

that we dip in cornmeal and fry from the butter

of a neighbor’s cow.

The oak and beech disappear as I climb

further to fir, larch, and pine.

I pick edelweiss and arnica

to set in the blue glass vase on our table.

We eat the polenta with what we have gathered,

and Mutti is always angry,

Vati a traveling tailor and never around,

hungry stepchildren.

 

Once we accidentally ate poisonous mushrooms.

I knew something was wrong when the August light

turned orange and from the faces of Russian soldiers

emerged black beetles,

and my brother lay holding his stomach and vomiting.

 

My stomach is full of knives.

It is an empty cavern, a cave

where my dead mother dwells below budding breasts.

 

Sometimes I want to cross the River Mur

and never return.

Sometimes the river roils in my body

and I pull the sun into me.

Sometimes I see a golden eagle on the elm tree.

 

He looks royal,

as if he’s won a war.

______________________________________________________________

Kika Dorsey is a poet and English instructor from Boulder, Colorado. She has published in numerous journals, including the Columbia Review, KYSO Flash, The Denver Quarterly. She has two books published, Beside Herself (Flutter Press, 2010) and Rust (Word Tech Editions, 2016). She is currently working on a manuscript about post-WW2 Austria inspired by stories from her Austrian mother. When not writing, teaching, and raising her teenage children, she runs and hikes in the mountains and plains of her Colorado home.

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The Bamberger & Wahrmann Antiquariat Bookshop 

By Maya Wahrman

By now in Germany

rare books were so unwanted you could buy a sack

for only a shilling. So downtown Jerusalem

was bookshops bustling

with treasures of the written word

from the exile-land. Men of faith, famous authors,

 

many frequented his store, mingled among

the bookshelves, set out to explore

the words he owned and printed. Vanilla,

must, tan wood-based pages, bound.

The aroma made a man want books

with his tongue. Some men

 

found books they’d always wanted,

some wanted books they’d just found.

One customer fingered spines as he muttered prayer

under his breath. Rebuild our city Jerusalem,

please, hurry! It was 1939,

Jerusalem was being rebuilt in our time,

 

the storeowner’s home back in Frankfurt

was torn apart.

In the store,

men from all over the city would start

reliving, would meet Jews who seemed

foreign, would accustom themselves

to the desert dry heat of the Judean hills.

 

No longer reliving, now living.

He died. Store shut, past-life books

became harder to find.

But men said and wrote,

the city was never the same

when the doors closed.

______________________________________________________________

Maya Wahrman graduated from Princeton University’s Department of History, with certificates in Creative Writing and Near Eastern Studies.  She currently works at Princeton’s Office of Religious Life on issues of faith and forced migration. She has had opinion pieces published in the English and Hebrew editions of Haaretz, and has had poetry published in the Nassau Literary Review, the Jewish Currents poetry anthology Urge, and Sweet Tree Review.

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