- Toy Soldiers
The man who made these toy soldiers trudging through the thin snow of dust on my windowsill died last summer in his little shop in Galena, Illinois, the town where Grant retired to write his memoirs, wrapped in a shawl on the front porch of his yellowed Victorian house, finishing them three days before he died, penniless, from smoking too many cigars. They found him sitting in his chair, surrounded on all sides by soldiers, some painted, some still a dull pewter, waiting for him to bring them to life with his brush, so that he was to them a kind of god. I remember the day my mom took me into that store and told me I could choose any one I wanted, and I chose the one I was sure was Grant, though I was too shy to ask if it was and too young to care about his policy of Indian removal. All I knew was he was some sort of hero who had lived near where I lived, though in another time, and that he had died not far from there, gazing out over the hills of Galena and the river, remembering the pink blossoms of Shiloh before they fell. [End Page 592]
Austin Smith has published three chapbooks and poetry in the New Orleans Review, Poetry East, and ZYZZYVA.