Marvin Lurie

Grandpappy’s War (2020)

The little ones keep asking,
how come Ive got only two fingers and a thumb
on my left hand? I make up tales.
I reached down to take a fish off my hook.
Another fish must have thought my fingers were worms
because it jumped up and bit them off.
Truth is, on July 21, 1861
I was with the 1st Massachusetts and Colonel Codwin,
right at the end of my ninety day enlistment,
not eager to get shot at.
We spent the day marching back and forth,
got moved from the 1st to 5th Division in reserve,
and watched the fighting around Bull Run Creek,
happy to be out of it.
Late afternoon our soldiers started to walk back from the fight,
some of them threw away their packs and rifles and ran.
We were ordered down behind them to keep back the Rebels
who seemed just as muddled. Some cannon shots
discouraged them from coming after us,
but not before I saw two of our fellows shot down.
The road back to Centreville was jammed with a jumble
    of soldiers, wagons
and the carriages of people who had come to picnic and watch the
   battle,
everyone trying to push through the crowd.
The wheel of a caisson I was helping push slipped off the road
knocked me down with the wheel on my hand and crushed my
   fingers.
That ended my afternoon of war.
The gun Sargent tore strips from my shirt to bind me up and stop
   me bleeding.
In Washington a doctor gave me a canteen with hard liquor,
a leather strap to bite on
and nipped off my fingers.
That was enough war for me, so I came home.
I'll tell anyone about the fish, though.

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