Norvin Dickerson – "On Leave" – A Poem

On Leave

Four riders, three survived Spotsylvania, other
the sawbones.  Mounts at an amble as riders
rest in the saddle.

Horses spot blue coats and turn to bolt.
Grits is asleep and thrown from his big sorrel
so the other three stop.  Yankees
step out from their barricade, surround
them.  Lieutenant checks their leave papers
and keeps the documents.

“Doc ain’t a soldier,” the Boy says,
“Spare him,” as they are led into the woods.
“Doc, tell ’em,”  Brother says.  Doc’s quiet.  “Speak up.
Last chance,” the lieutenant replies.

I have not seen my family in two years.
In blood and bone most of the time.  Helped
your people, too
, Doc answers.

“We got no blindfolds.  Pull your caps down,”
says the lieutenant. Doc bareheaded turns
his back and the others turn, too.  Doc holds
the Boy’s hand until it jerks out of his.

Crunch of leaves, grouse
flushed, Grit’s horse snorts,
jangle of the lieutenant’s spurs.
Grits gives a rebel yell
that fills Doc’s ears.  All
goes silent.