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Church on the March

--after E. L. Doctorow

Paul Willis (bio)

When Sherman stopped to rest in Savannah,
and when he paused in Fayetteville,
on the Sabbath his soldiers packed
into the churches, squeezed themselves
into the pews with mothers and children
of those they had slaughtered, those
who had slaughtered them in return.

The almost empty offering plates
passed waveringly from hand to hand,
each withholding what was left,
or wanting to. Was there a minister
here or there who dared to preach
from Matthew’s Sermon, the loving
of enemies, turning of cheeks?

There were, I imagine, more than a few
boys in blue who turned their cheeks
to look at those of the somewhat ill-clad
daughters of the Confederacy, but what of that?
And some of those daughters, in spite
of themselves, were glad to be so looked upon.

Love must start somewhere, and why not
the volleys of eyes, the beautiful lips
launching hymns in unison?

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