Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

If Only Civil Wars Took Special Requests

Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

If Only Civil Wars Took Special Requests

Article excerpt

(Abraham Lincoln)

It was midnight or later and I was afraid to sleep. Cows feel a similar disorientation when they are led to the slaughterhouse. My mind tended towards the terrible. It needed to be occupied and so there I was at the front door, shoveling white snow inside the White House. Let's agree that obscurity can be essential. Anyway, I couldn't stop myself. Life was lousy.

The stiff-legged guard must have notified an aide and so on and so forth. This process was longer than most. Eventually Lincoln arrived in that confident way of his. Each step taken was part of a sequence of great success. He was surely repelled by the way I drifted about motherhood without ever reaching a destination. I greeted him with the popping of knees, which are always the first bones to erode in the body.

"No, no, no," he said, grabbing my shovel and splintering it over his thigh. His sensitivity to the tools of humanity indicated he could've been a gifted blacksmith. That magical breath of his then warmed the frostbite off my fingers. I was flesh. He was blood, and he alone had the eyes of the world fixed on him.

Not me. Never me.

I was free to make the kind of confession that was immediate and cried, "I'm so sorry but this is the story of me. I make all the wrong impressions. I lack a lot of core. Who I am depends on who I am with. Terror? I can at least admit there's no question about it." In the particularity of the moment, I just didn't understand that a music box wound up too tightly will play furthermore out of tempo.

Prior to the lunacy of the Civil War, my husband, a hater of conflict and an otherwise overall coward when it came to emotions, would've left me alone to contemplate our infinite differences. …

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