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136th Weekly Poetry Contest winner: Across the Neck

by Stillwriting

Across the Neck
remembering The Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775
Orange glint of dawn,
the redoubt in view–
and this to their shock,
but reason should have warned
that farmers fear sloth more than work,
even more when digging for a living
becomes scraping for a life.
Barrage from the harbor,
revelation brought, that
ships are made to fight ships
and not hills, with final knowledge
that this common land
requires assault.
Foot of the hill, under the June sun,
bayonets skyward as knives of light,
and brass cannon, bursts of gold,
the Atlantic breeze lifts and drops
regimental colors before
the push.
At the rail fence, where men from
Hampshire’s backwoods
crouch for Fusiliers and their
screaming charge down the beach,
and Massachusetts, in the thirst
of the bulwark’s dirt bowl,
awaits grenadiers and marines
to march within four rods–
that line where everyone becomes
a marksman.
Nineteen or twenty,
an ocean from home,
now climbing the shadeless field,
knowing the uniform only
hides blood from the observer,
and later to lie in the hull of the barge
as it rocks, water sloshing pink, then red,
returning to Boston where surgeons
complain of bitten lead balls
and poisoned nails, as a wound
to the thigh proves as complete
as one to the heart–
yet, sixteen-inches of pointed steel
works no less.
Carcasses from Copp’s batteries,
filled with powder to ignite
sticking pitch and burning tallow
set Charlestown aflame,
sending snipers to new perches,
spying again for those with
gorgets and swords;
two failed attempts, before the third,
farmers’ horns long empty and
breastwork overrun,
swinging muskets against the flood,
before their downhill retreat
across the neck.
looking back over a shoulder
at surrendered ground and black smoke,
realizing that a hill lost
made for an army found.
originally published in The Copperfield Review as “Found”

See all the entrants to 136th Weekly Poetry Contest