Traces of Red Long Gone

How long was the blood
In Antietam Creek visible?
How far down the Potomac
Would folks see
Death flowing by,
Or drifting to shore,
As the creek wound
Its way to the U.S. capital?

The creek's name, derived
From Algonquian, meaning
Swift-flowing stream,
Could have carried caps, ammo bags,
Canteens, limbs, or entire bodies,
To Washington, where I see,
Between monumental portico pillars
Jefferson standing tall beneath rotunda.

Around the tidal basin, free of war debris,
A founding father, not perfect,
Just a man, or a woman,
like you or me, stands amid his efforts,
difficult tasks in difficult times,
following providence 85 years before
the war they all knew was coming
to test what many hoped to create.
Encircled by his words:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,
among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…"

"Commerce between master and slave is despotism.
Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate
than that these people are to be free."

"...Laws and institutions must go hand in hand
with the progress of the human mind.
As that becomes more developed, more enlightened,
as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered
and manners and opinions change,
with the change of circumstances,
institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times."

No monuments existed then–
on land ceded by north and south–
Not there or on any battlefield,
as war raged, destined to change us,
save bloody lanes,
bloody rivers,
uncrossable bridges,
and those words.

Photo Credit: Paul Dee on Flickr