Bloody Lane


A road is a road is a road,
Except when it is not.
Sometimes a road is an avenue
Or a boulevard
Or a route
Or a street
Busy with life rushing by in buses
Or in cars
Or in trucks
Or on bicycles or on foot.

And sometimes a road is a lane,
A narrow country byway not of tar but
Of dirt
Or grass
Or gravel,
Where there is no bustle
But a place and time
That is calm, peaceful, and quiet.

But not all roads are equal.
Nor all avenues
Or boulevards
Or routes
Or streets.
And certainly not all lanes.
Sometimes, instead of being full of life,
They are full of death.

Oftentimes on some of those thoroughfares
There are makeshift memorials
Of clothes
Or crosses
Or flowers
Soon rotten and tattered tributes
Placed by people remembering
Friends and loved ones in their own ways.

Other times, a nation collectively
Remembers the thousands upon thousands -
Who laid so thick upon the ground
That it could be passed over
Without a foot
Or hoof
Or wagon wheel
Ever touching the soaked red soil -

By declaring the ground sacred,
Protecting square mile after square mile
And decorating fields with
Monuments of marble and granite
Placed and built to last
So no one could forget the sacrifices made.

So four scores of years and more later
When no breath of memory was left
People strolling over that hallowed ground
That sunken road
That bloody lane
Having read of North versus South
Of brother versus brother
Of the battle’s history and
Of the deadliest day of fighting

Would just for a few minutes
In the sunshine and gentle breeze
Amidst the grass gone to seed
Be as roused now as surely as
The spirits of those who perished there
Were risen then.

Photo credit: National Park Service