Savannah Wade: Poetry: April 2020

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I lived my entire childhood under the shadow of the Brushy Mountains in Western North Carolina. I lived in a farmhouse built in 1897 or so that was bought by my great great grandmother Pearl who was a madame in a brothel. My family was always rich in story which made the nights without wood for the heater or running water somehow less frightful. I now live in Raleigh and miss the haunted and cursed way of the mountains that I have known since infancy.

Put Down Your Axe

William Hockett was an North Carolinian Quaker who was drafted into the Confederacy. Throughout his time as a solider he objected to the slaying of men and routinely put his rifle down in the middle of battle. He was beaten, harassed and nearly killed by his own men. He wrote in his diary “I believe true Christianity and carnal war to be as far separated as Heaven is from Hell” 

 

I was shown a vision that I would be carried off to the war and have to suffer many things
Suffer as I have or once done in the comfort of my home
with a child upon my knee, a woman soon wife beside me, and the woods separating brother
and brother by border. I suffer with severance:
A child by cord, a wife by wedlock.
Suffer by liberty born of a patriot’s dream, of a storm cradled nation that fell
into my arms, head nestled in my clavicle.
This is a father’s anthem, a grasp for glory, a deliverance to draw first blood
Or no blood at all.
For we once were two brothers’ hands clasped till the grasp was mistaken
for faking our union, a mountain marriage.
It is by that tree, yonder, near hearth and home where
once agreed on matrimony then turned to severance
of an old agreement of once was mine, remained mine.
It reeks of worth. But Brother,
count the rings, by the trees, by the torch baring phantom figures, by the hollow offerings of metal wrapped around my woman soon wife’s finger.

This war rages on and I will not fight in it.
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
but not I. For the hero I need be is at home.
Holding my child cross my chest to match his heartbeat
and my wife, fully formed and dedicated to thought
her oven saves us for another day.

I will not fight, though I stand here in front of a dozen black eyes.
I stare into them and say “Forgive them for they do not know what they do
That tree sings to me still. Leaves to branches to the molten coil wrapped in its heart.
They have told my wife and son, “we could not shoot such a man”.
Yet this rifle weighs me still and stiff on this route through the mountain.

 

[The italics are taken from primary historical sources such as William Hockett’s diary, The Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe, and The Confederate Note by Major S. A. Jones of Aberdeen, Mississippi]