Academic journal article Southern Quarterly

Those Shifting Sands

Academic journal article Southern Quarterly

Those Shifting Sands

Article excerpt

for Natasha Trethewey

The black guide at Fort Sumter thirty years ago,

waving vaguely out toward the gray Atlantic.

In a low & steady voice he says, yes, they're still

out there somewhere in the shifting sands,

but washed under, like so much of our history.

Having driven down from New York, I'd asked

him for the best way out to Fort Wagner,

where Colonel Shaw and the colored troops

of the Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth charged

the rebel mounds one July night back

in 1863, their bullet-battered bodies dragged

and gathered, then tossed into some makeshift grave.

They're all gone now, all without a marker:

spattered wood, diced bone, rusting muzzle,

somewhere out there beneath those roiling waves.

I've been to Charleston half a dozen times,

and love the food there, especially the oysters

and the minty juleps. Love too the halcyon view

of the harbor from the park which lies South

of Broad, flanked by those antebellum houses

which somehow survived Sherman's blitzkrieg.

And love the oak-lined drive among the patched

Gone with the Wind plantations that fan out to the north.

I've climbed the parapets at Moultrie, where Sergeant

Major Edgar Allan Poe, trapped, brooded among

the drizzle and mosquitoes. …

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