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Two poems for Gettysburg

By Catherine Woodard
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 2026 GMT (0426 HKT)
A crowd gathers to hear President Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863. Lincoln is seen in the center, just to the left of the bearded man with a top hat. A crowd gathers to hear President Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863. Lincoln is seen in the center, just to the left of the bearded man with a top hat.
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Photographs of the Gettysburg Address
Photographs of the Gettysburg Address
Photographs of the Gettysburg Address
Photographs of the Gettysburg Address
Photographs of the Gettysburg Address
Photographs of the Gettysburg Address
Photographs of the Gettysburg Address
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(CNN) -- Editor's note: Catherine Woodard is a poet and former newspaper and new media journalist. Woodard worked to return Poetry in Motion to the NYC subways and is a board member of the Poetry Society of America.

Catherine Woodard
Catherine Woodard

Gettysburg -- that long, bloody battle in July 1863 is forever seared into the American psyche and continues to draw visitors to its historic field in Pennsylvania. Among them is poet Catherine Woodard, who visited Gettysburg last summer, the 150th anniversary of that decisive Civil War battle.

For the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, she wrote two poems.

Gettysburg

Gen. Daniel Sickles takes his amputated
leg home in a barrel of whiskey. Takes

credit for the Union victory
when Lincoln visits three days later.

Rep. Sickles (D-NY) works the missing leg
even better than the one still attached.

He nominates himself for a Medal of Honor,
hitched to a bill to hallow Gettysburg

where he sent 10,000 New York boys --
against orders -- down from Cemetery Ridge

to a peach orchard, then out to meet the Rebs.
On the 150th anniversary of the battle,

two sweaty brothers squirm on Little Round Top
in midday sun, oblivious to parents and tour guide.

They wear blue Union caps, struggle
to attach plywood bayonets to replica rifles.

+++

"To care for him who shall have borne the battle"

-- Abraham Lincoln, second inaugural address

Vets back from Iraq or Afghanistan
still file paper claims.

They wait hundreds of days
to find out how much PTSD or lost limbs

are worth to a country that launches --
in seconds -- drones half a world away.

The president,
reelected by digital data-mining,

promises to trim the wait --
by the later years of his second term.

No date set for VA computers
to speak the digital language of Defense.

The second floor sags in a veterans' office
in North Carolina, blamed partly

on expanded eligibility for Agent Orange,
though many decades late. Red twill tape

once bound the evidence pending review,
lending a color to complaint.

Now it's modern manila folders;
a million vets wait.

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