“The Sherman, the Grant, The Eldest,” “Eyes in the Warehouse” and “Musket”

Poetry by Matthew Mitchell

“The Sherman, the Grant, The Eldest,” “Eyes in the Warehouse” and “Musket”

The Sherman, The Grant, The Eldest

The General Sherman bounds 1,487m3

all wood

***

Like a bird god lean and hard

Sherman surveys Atlanta

His face bewhiskered, pockmarked

his choice to end this here

An eagle, wings wide, screams

from his saddle blanket

But he holds silent on his bright bay

a white star on its forehead

His stepparents had feared his given name

“William, William, William” they cooed

Years forward he would listen, white conqueror,

killer of buffalo

But now Tecumseh senses his calm first self

the full clarity of his plan

“War is cruelty,” he would say to the mayor,

“you can not refine it”

At Ebenezer Creek he would say nothing

pull up pontoons on the freed

Pressing forward through farmland and swampland

to the sea

***

The General Grant spreads 12m

at the base

***

Up near Grant’s tomb the sidewalk is paved

in dark Hastings hexagons

Down Riverside Park his Grand Army

still links

In six-sided formation, each man low

silent

Two preteen descendants of those Sherman

abandoned

At Ebenezer Creek throw stones

down toward the Hudson

Caring as much for sunbathers on the slope

below

As Tecumseh cared for their

great great greats

Or as Grant, numbers man in his foursquare

martial tomb

Cared for any one element in his set

of superior numbers

Without whom it is hard to say where two free boys

might now be

***

The unnamed eldest resides in orbits countless

of a hot quiet sun

***

High above the vast scraped valley

the eldest abides

In haze hidden Californian Elysium

a millennium old

Already, when the Greek general descended

to the valley of the Indus

He thought from the crocodiles a tributary

to the Nile

And tested his army against warriors and elephants

of a seven-foot king

And cresting a small rise encountered a sage

unmoved and unafraid

As confident in the ageless multiplicity

of lives

The unceasing arising and passing

the true nature

As the eldest still feels confident in mountains

steep and scratchy

In winter snow melting to green blue torrents

in canyons

In black raven wings of evening and fierce cold stars

of night

And in orbiting once again to face a hot quiet sun

of day

Eyes in the Warehouse

KISW’s electric lunch

buzzes through hot warehouse of exhaust pipes

dangling by hangers on high cylinders

far deep in Duwamish tide flat dredge lands

earthquake bottom, gray old Kingdome to north

Sound bounces Miss August she of shipping

room calendar up there over tape guns

used by Holly and Rob and Rod and me

her naked body a boon and salve to

us all in dark wood beam mail cave, I think

Her eyes still peek out from the shadowed wall

when we flip the switch like Jeff’s cheap dad wants

drizzle light only now in shipping room

from clerestory windows lined far up filtering

through gray pipe forest, upside-down smog roots

Years later all beams for that yellow place

with sad odors of motor oil cardboard

urinal and forklift spew disappear

fade away like the cedar alder fir

forest the beams came from, the little stream

There were eyes near that stream in drizzle light

somewhere far deep down peeking through trees like

beaver, ogress, raven, orca, eagle

lined up bottom to top of totem pole

in Ish river cobble soil, distant time

Miss August eyes, raven eyes, beaver eyes

eyes of the many presences watch us

observe in the air as bloody red sun

burns into tree shadows and cave places

Seattle breathes smoke, fires burn upcountry

Musket

You have the right to bear a musket

and to practice your musketry

on the musket range

You have the right to tip your arquebus

and jam down it a powder packet

of cloth with your cold metal rod

To that powder packet you have the right, please,

drop sulfur, charcoal and saltpeter down your muzzle

and feel that perfect explosion at barrel’s bottom

You may fire your flintlock once per minute

for any revolutionary war re-enactment

at Lexington, Concord, or Valley Forge State Park

Mosquette is French for sparrowhawk

and you may hunt French sparrowhawks

if they allow it there

Moschetto is Italian for musket and for fly

but not the kind my student unzipped

the day of the too-long school lockdown

AR-15 is not a musket you may bear

nor one that Madison could have imagined

in Virginia days of yore and slaves ...

... and words in iron gall ink on animal skin

in a museum that speak of your right to bear

a musket

About the Author

Matthew Mitchell

Matthew Mitchell is a writer and math teacher. His poems have previously appeared through Kestrel, Other Rooms Press, and Poetry Now. Several of his short audio essays have also aired on KQED public radio.