conquering a poem

Oct 25, 2012

I have this daughter that blows my mind away. She has so much truth and goodness and power inside of her. She has a depth to her thinking that continues to surprise me even after sixteen years of mothering her.

She is taking a class right now called Sword of Freedom. It is about the Civil War. They have studied Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Across Five Aprils, The Dred Scott Decision, Abraham Lincoln, The Emancipation Proclamation, Amendments 14, 15, and 16, The Gettysbug Address, and To Kill A Mockingbird. They write papers each week, have movie nights to watch Red Badge of Courage, Gettysburg, Gone With The Wind, and other era-specific films, and last Saturday had a simulation of a battle over at the city park. Her mentors are amazing. They inspire these youth to work hard and put in hundreds of hours of study.

Last week, Blythe was asked to write a poem for her class. She loves to write and create stories, but she believed this assignment was out of her league. She hemmed and hawed for days. She said she couldn’t do it. She said she didn’t know how to write a poem. I gave up on her ever getting it done. And then, on Monday, she came into my room and asked if I would listen to her rough draft.

Blew my mind away.

Her words were so powerful.

She did it. She conquered a fear. She did hard things.

And it is beautiful.

She said I could share it with you.

The Brothers

My brother left that early morn,
He did not say to where.
He walked away along the road
And the sun shone in his hair.

Before too long I’d left home, too.
We marched away so strong.
The drums did beat so loud and clear
As we sang a Dixie song.

We’d beat the Yanks, we proudly said.
Our hearts were filled with cheer,
And in our haste for battle days
There was no room for fear.

But when guns roared
And I saw men die,
My foolish pride was turned,
And hatred took my cry.

We stormed across the battlefield
And swept into their band,
Heedless of the men that fell
And died on every hand.

But in the end we could not tell
Who’d won and who had lost.
There was no glory in the day,
No joy for those who fought.

And afterwards a silence fell,
And in my heart there seemed to ring
A deadly chapel bell,
Yet no mourners there to sing.

There seemed to be a serenity
As I walked among the dead.
Their faces twisted in agony
Did not seem of such hatred bred.

And then I saw a scene so real,
That I cannot forget.
A sight that stays in memory,
Far worse than mortal threat.

It was a Southern boy in a Union cap.
My brother lay there dead.
His blood was red upon his coat.
Dark blue was every thread.

In anguish I did cry aloud.
My tears did soak the dust.
I prayed it had not been my gun
That laid his heart to rest.

My cries did mingle with the groans
Of countless injured men
Scattered over the battlefield,
Some to never rise again.

These Yankees were not strangers here,
Not monsters like we’d said.
Every man, a brother was,
Our blood, like theirs, was red.

I am so proud of her! I can’t wait to read the next poem she writes.

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  1. Kate

    Holy crap. That is such a good poem. Like seriously fantastic. I’ve never written anything even close to touching that. Even at the college Last Poet Standing competition(Mostly senior English majors), I didn’t hear poems that good. She tells a powerful story and uses clear imagery within a consistent rhyme scheme and form. Dang. I can’t get over it.

    • tracy


      What a lovely compliment. It really touched Blythe. She doesn’t know what to think about this whole thing…she went from believing she couldn’t write a poem at all to her mom gushing about how awesome her poem turned out to now hearing from other people that it is rockin’.

      Thank you SO much for the encouragement!

      p.s. We are so, so excited to start lessons again. Any clue when you might be open to that possibility?

  2. Stephanie

    What a gifted writer, I love Blythe!

  3. I’m not a poet
    I can’t write poems
    They turn out lame
    Like little gnomes
    Blythe is good
    I’m so impressed
    She is surely a poet
    And needs to be published

    • tracy


      You crack me! Your poem totally made my morning!

      Love you!

  4. Trista

    Wow! She gets it. Your heart must have been bursting.

    • tracy


      Bursting is exactly right!

  5. Tam

    AMAZING!!! Wow, Blythe. I can’t even stand how great that was!

    • tracy


      I miss you SO much! How are you? Call me!!

      Thanks for the kudos on Blythe’s poem!

  6. Jenny

    I will be looking for her name in bookstores soon. Wow!