And So He Drank
America finally had its Manifest Destiny--
It was about killing.
A wife had a steadying effect on young men who might otherwise
Take to whoring
She kept her husband on a tight leash
His drinking problem was the talk of the town
A guilty expression like a man with a bad hangover
Slovenly in personal appearance
His mother showed him an indifference that was remarked upon
People near the frontier didn’t worry about babies
People became soldiers because they had failed at everything else
The tannery was next to the house with its noxious smells of rendered fat
Old cattle were penned up outside waiting to be slaughtered
The horse, still blindfolded, set off placidly
He wasted his time reading romantic novels
The endless parades, drills, and fussy inspections of infantry
He had no gift for small talk;
He’d never learned to dance
The first warning came in the shape of thousands of terrified rabbits
Horse’s hooves skittering on cobblestones slippery with blood
A hell hole of heat vermin and flies
A bullet struck the pillow where he was about to lay his head
The glint of bayonets through the smoke held nothing
He had to kill them in larger quantities
New wars echo old ones;
How much suffering are we prepared to watch?
What number of murders makes a massacre?
The gods reign where they can,
One calleth wisdom what another calleth fear
The object of warfare is murder
The best fighting men do not loot and rape--
Here are soldiers lining up the inhabitants of a peasant village,
Suffers temporary snow blindness, plays chess and checkers
With citizens, enjoys racing, betting on horses.
Becomes bored, lonely, and depressed
(is alleged to have drunk heavily),
Issues order expelling all Jews from Tennessee
Mostly communicates by notes.
The tomb had been allowed to fall into decay.
There was a troupe of barely clad dancers--
History in the making,
I stare so deep in your eyes.
Man proposes, God disposes--
The war had begun.
There was never any scolding or punishing by my parents
The brother and sister next younger than myself died of the same disease
Much of my time, I’m sorry to say, was devoted to novels
One of my superstitions had always been when I started to go anywhere
Not to go back
I am not aware of ever having used a profane expletive in my life.
We became the army of invasion.
One cannon ball passed through our ranks, it took off the head
Of an enlisted man
The exposure of a single head would bring a volley.
Before an animal is turned loose explosives are attached to him
I could not see how human beings could enjoy the suffering of beasts
We landed in front of a cornfield
My horse seemed to take in the situation
Our men commenced rummaging the tents to pick up trophies
A constant fire was delivered from every gun
A third ball passed through his hat
Alligators and other revolting looking things occupy the swamps
In the thousands
There is nothing but pine woods surrounding us,
Infested to an enormous degree with Ticks, Red Bugs,
And a little creeping thing looking like a lizard;
We heard the most unearthly howling of wolves.
Meanwhile, cholera had broken out
I was attacked by fever and ague
Vomito, which usually visits that city early in the year
The Yellow Fever was raging during this time
I was suffering very severely with a sick headache
I spent the night putting mustard plasters on my wrists and the
Back part of my neck
My heart kept getting higher and higher until it felt to me as though
It was in my throat
Wars produce many stories of fiction, some of which
Are told until they are believed true
A state half slave and half free cannot exist
They claimed that one Southern man was equal to five Northern men
This is the best of all places—the place of all places
I would not go home on any account whatever.
Read these blank lines just as I intend them and
They will express more than words
I can feel plainly that my system is preparing for dissolution
In three ways;
One by hemorrhages, one by strangulations, and
The third by exhaustion
There can not be a hope of going far beyond this time
This is always the trouble:
The cocaine does not seem to relieve the pain,
I will have to be careful about my writing--
Will not cut out anything of interest.
My tongue has commenced to diminish
In coughing a while ago much blood came up
A verb is anything that signifies to be; to do; or to suffer.
I signify all three.
P.S. Have carefully preserved the lock of hair you gave me.
* Ulysses S. Grant: The Unlikely Hero, by Michael Korda; Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant; letters of Ulysses S. Grant, and “Notes to the Doctor” (Library of America edition, Grant, Memoirs and Selected Letters); Just and Unjust Wars, Michael Walzer; Arguing About War, Michael Walzer; lyrics of Beyoncé Knowles.