Natasha Trethewey

April 1863

If this war is to be forgotten, I ask in the name of all
things sacred what shall men remember?
              —Frederick Douglass

When men die, we eat their share of hardtack
trying not to recall their hollow sockets,
the worm-stitch of their cheeks. Today we buried
the last of our dead from Pascagoula,
and those who died retreating to our ship —
white sailors in blue firing upon us
as if we were the enemy. I’d thought
the fighting over, then watched a man fall
beside me, knees-first as in prayer, then
another, his arms outstretched as if borne
upon the cross. Smoke that rose from each gun
seemed a soul departing. The Colonel said:
an unfortunate incident; said:
their names shall deck the page of history.