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  • Remembrance Day
  • Christopher Kempf (bio)

       Improper, though, the partof us that wants a body here. Re-           memor—"mind

   ful" actually, the Latin is       incontrovertible. We wanta resurrection. Want       membre, perhaps, from mems—"meat,"           or "flesh." Isn't memory,       the argument goes, our most magnificentof surgeries? The soldiers—some

of them, no doubt, for ancestors, others       the spectacle—execute (alltogether, the gray

           & blue) their about-faceonto Lincoln Street, each group's       parade sergeant swinging               his replica cutlass, the sidewalksof Gettysburg thick with tourists.               Townie children

wave little American flags. Vast       coolers brim with pops. We want,

perhaps, the nineteenth century   again—our men returned to us, the country's       one body bandaged togetherwith the neat stitchwork of Law. The long column

               of reenactors—also       fifes & buglers, boys       with wheelbarrows full of horse shit—stretches

       through town to our streetof dive bars & T-shirt vendors. McClellan,           raised, sips Fireball. Shaw's [End Page 119]

black troops relay a fishbowl   to Stuart's Virginians. Artillery       Punches slosh. Winecoolers. Juleps. The truces

       of old, of course, came toowith their great trayfulls of cocktails.               At Culp's Hill,

surgeons administered whiskey—it was       my backyard, the tours will tell you, the rebels& Yanks beside each other           in the hospital barns—before       their procedures, bitclenched in the soldiers' mouths.               Isn't memory,

   more rightly, the pile of shinbones       in the cutting room bucket? Oneleg lopped off   at the hip. Isn't itthe South's stunned body they went back       to & flew their bitterness   over? Hoses.               Affidavits. In   reconstruction Texas, some men       walked another man through town—the crowdwe know from photographs, his scaffolding           like a float—& before they burned him               ran irons through his feet& windpipe. Isn't this

               our country? From       "flesh." From               a past we imagine   could have been—oh isn't itsomething?—one       once. Tecumseh Sherman   drinks High Life at a picnic table.

       He is a roofer from Knoxville. [End Page 120]

Christopher Kempf

Christopher Kempf is the author of Late in the Empire of Men, which won the 2015 Levis Prize in Poetry (Four Way Books, 2017). He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. His work has appeared in Gettysburg Review, Kenyon Review, New Republic, PEN America, and Ploughshares, among other places. A recent Emerging Writer Lecturer at Gettysburg College, he is a doctoral student in English Literature at the University of Chicago.



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