Ghost Fires
by Ed Bennett

My father's merchant mind
dreamed me into Harvard
but I took my cloak of black wool
and entered West Point anyway.

The fires of war were banked,
at least between white Christians,
so I rode my commission to the plains
with the leather and snap of the cavalry,

became a god astride a government horse
leading a host of hard, strong men
to find glory along the Platte,
protecting farmers and railroads.

The first battle was like the rest,
a night raid with firebrands
touched to kindling tents'
on warriors armed with sleep.

There were few of them: old and barely grown,
women running from us, their children
gathered to them like quail chicks
seeking cover when the gunfire began.

The fires burned as children screamed,
their blood pooling in the grass;
my glory was born in the bitumen
of one less village, one more silence.

I never returned to Beacon Hill,
to my loving Christian clan
or the God who stood apart from
His nomad children on Sand Creek,

burned my tether to all of them,
wandering in the shadow of
the ghost fires that purged the better part
of what was once my nation's soul.

The sword has cleared the hunter's knife.
The plains are busy with righteous agronomy.
But the ghost fires burn as elders chant dirges
for these bloody amber waves of grain.


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