- Out of the Quotidian Flesh and into History
Bonham in Extremis
Only in retrospect would the blood-dimmed Outcome seem inevitable. And, despite The fact that the Mexican generalissimo Set, snapping on the afternoon breeze, From a makeshift staff atop the belfry Of bronze-domed San Fernando, a red Skull-and-crossbones blazoned banner Of no quarter, we were never men bent On the main chance, and took all such Blackguards for callow, comic-opera Buffoons who loved a jest. Yet the boldest Among us stared a spell at the line Travis Traced deep in the caliche soil at our feet Before seized by any impulse to step Out of the quotidian flesh and into history Where the courtyard gathered us close, Knitting us ghost and sinew in one resolve. And, indeed, among us one Louis Rose Chose to slip over the west wall, nettles From a field of nopal that he blundered Into somewhere out there near sundown Pricking more deeply than conscience. Buck kept, in the pocket over his heart, A letter from “Three-Legged” Willie Saying filibusters rallied at San Felipe, Dismissing Fannin and the truculence That refused to let him budge a half- Mile beyond La Bahía’s stronghold. I myself carried the fateful dispatch, riding [End Page 576] From settlement to presidio in weather Both parched and torrential, the hoofprints Of my Appaloosa oozing shut behind me. We woke before daylight next morning To the sound of one bugle taken up And swelled to the swart Moorish tones Of the Degüello, the regimental bands Urging the Centralist battalions forward. Soon but a few gunners held the platform High in the apse of the Alamo church. We swung about a brass six-pounder, Plugging the bore with langrage, chopped Horseshoes, and nails; Esparza set linstock To priming tube, the hoarse report And rising gust of incandescent metal Ripping an even dozen Matamoros Grenadiers to tatters. Thronging soldados Regrouped inside the chapel’s archway, And muskets banked like galley oars, Each rank fired volley after volley, bayonets Gleaming phosphor. Smoothbore shot Plinked off the mortared limestone interior, Leaden spheroids spent beyond flesh and bone. I lay riddled and blood-boltered on the scaffold, My last breath a wisp unfurling the dawn air.
The Natchez Sandbar Fight
Though he cannot know it at such an hour, This is Major Norris Wright’s time to atone, The final daybreak to take in certain ravishments Of the eye and delectations of the ear: the music Of a porcelain basin poured to the brim, a mauve-handled Straight razor and frothing mug of mint-scented Lather laid out for his morning’s ritual of laving And whisking away a night’s crisp stubble. [End Page 577] He squires himself into silken white sleeves, Securing each mother-of-pearl button With the deftness of one who’s master Of the pasteboards, prestidigitator Fanning a pat hand, spades and hearts, A peacock beneath chandeliers spilling crystal And nickel. Before quitting his chambers, he lifts From a box two snub-nosed pistols slumbering in velvet, Then reaches for his ivory-knobbed sword cane: Jim Bowie would later gasp on the Natchez sandbar, Sped through the lung with its slender yard Of watery steel. But a terrible grip would close On Wright’s subtle wrist, his shoulder’s bone- Lappings keening as he strove to pull away. The Interval was Bowie’s. His whetted Damascus Cut the major free of both liver and lights There in the sun-stunned blaze of a delta noon, The hour of no shadow when the wounded And dead seem borne aloft on the gnat-swarming air And flocking sparrows grit up, filling their crops With sweet sticky gobbets of warm sand.
Aftermath: Dusk at the Alamo
John Purdy Reynolds sprawls before the chapel’s Blood-spattered façade, its earth tones Of burnt umber and raw sienna no longer Beguiling his every glance. Indeed the town Of San Antonio, the whitewashed adobes And dwellings of hewn limestone, conjured For many a footloose garrison bravo A New World Judea. A little beyond the river, Sun-spangled at the gravel-barred ford, Stood the shantytown of...