Marvin Lurie

Grandpappy’s War (2020)

The little ones keep asking,
how come I have only two fingers and a thumb
on my left hand? I make up tales.
I reached down to take a fish off my hook.
It must have thought my fingers were worms
because it jumped up and bit them off.
Truth is, the wheel of a caisson I was helping push slipped off the
knocked me with it and crushed my fingers.
That ended my afternoon of war on July 21, 1861.
I was with the 1st Massachusetts and Colonel Codwin,
right at the end of my ninety day enlistment
and 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 up with a jumble of
   soldiers, wagons
and the carriages of citizens who had come to picnic and
   watch the battle,
everyone trying to push through the crowd.
That's when I got knocked down with the wheel on my hand.
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 with a clippers.
That was enough war for me so I came home.
I'll tell anyone about the fish, though.

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