confederate cemetery

photo credit: tolbert

white markers lined the confederate graveyard
~a cemetery of sorts~
where the roots of death burrowed deeper than stubborn magnolias

and the voices of brave soldiers were long since silenced
though the wind still carried the screams, last words,
prayers and cursing like a hallelujah chorus on horseback.

young men, mostly still and forever nameless,
whose bodies had fallen to the ground
were then planted into it, like a seed, dormant, infertile and wasted.

the cemetery in one night swallowed an army
larger than the town filled with bellwort and trout lily
as two little girls grew up more quickly than their years begged of them.

nursing men, still boys, whose arms and legs
were buried well ahead of their time,
placing them in bags simply marked ‘miscellaneous’.

wooden markers set aside one boy from the next
but winter came and firewood was needed
and markers were white like the winter snow,

and white markers survived the winter
no better than dead soldiers
and white markers never specified heaven or hell.

*Note: I took the photo at the Sandusky Confederate Cemetery in Ohio and the poem
is written about the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864 in Franklin, Tennessee.

© 2012, tolbert. All rights reserved.

tolbert (24 Posts)

Born in Virginia and raised in North Carolina, I have Southern roots that were extracted when I lived close enough to Berkeley in the late sixties and early seventies to taste the influences of the pursuit of freedom. As a student at San Jose State University I watched William Kuntsler expound on the values of free speech and he offered more education in an hour, on the lawn by the baseball diamond than most professors gave in a full semester. Married for thirty years, I have two grown daughters and three grandkids,..and two Boston Terriers.


  1. Tolbert, this is such a poignant poem about one of the highest casualty-rate wars in our history. Death does not discriminate, does it Wayne. Your photo transported us there in the starkness of beauty to match the equal measure of pain within your poem.

  2. Tolbert,

    For a century and a half now, the people buried here and elsewhere as a consequence of this war are no longer our foes, from April 1865 onward they have been our fallen countrymen. They bravely fought and bravely died.

    We may question their cause but not their courage. As you state, “the voices of brave soldiers were long since silenced.” May the fallen rest in peace and may we the living highly resolve to finish the great work remaining before us.


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