Eric Pankey

1959 / Kansas City, Missouri

Three Mathew Brady Photographs

1. Confederate Dead behind a Stone Wall at Fredericksburg, Virginia

Where the glass negative broke:
A silky, liquid black,
Like spilled scrivener's ink,
Pools in the print's margin.

: :

Mouth gone slack, eyes upward,
Face glazed with blood, the man—
Lifeless, slumped, and tangled
In a tarp—looks for God.

: :

Two leafless trees hold up
A scratched sky's leaden weight.
Autumn? Winter? No wind
To sway the upright trees.

: :

Such a long exposure
To affix the fallen,
(Staged or happened upon,)
Abandoned to this ditch.

2. Wilderness, near Chancellorsville, Virginia

It is a slow process:
fallen and standing trees,
Propped, bent, a clutter of intersections—

All moss- and lichen-ridden,
woodpecker pecked,
Bored by grubs, antler-scraped, bark rubbed free—

Hard to tell from the decay
the living from the dead,
The dead from the almost dead—

A tree—
horizontal across the creek,
Uprooted when a flash flood cut the cut-bank—

Still leaves, blossoms, bears fruit.
Without a buttress,
A long dead sycamore remains upright.

3. Burying the Confederate Dead at Fredericksburg, Virginia

Jesus said, Let the dead bury the dead.

Two caskets and five or six canvas-
Covered bodies wait beside a trench
Three black men have spent all day digging.

Given their druthers, they'd obey scripture.
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