Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Rik George writes

The Visitation

It was after church 

and after noon, 
and the sun lay on the town 
like eternal damnation’s despair. 
Miranda sat on the veranda 
holding her panda 
while Amanda fanned her 
with a palm frond. 
Behind the oleanders, 
her brother Alexander 
and her cousin Leander 
fondled each other. 
Sister Lorna lounged on a lawn chair 
languid as the lilies 
sleeping on the pond 
in the languorous afternoon. 
Her beloved Papá, the Commander, 
snored in his wicker rocker. 
The cicadas in the yews 
harmonized on their kazoos 
and the mockingbirds slept, 
too weary to mimic their buzz. 
Flies circled the lemonade, 
dipping and sipping 
from pitcher and tumblers 
sticky with sugar 
retreating ice cubes left. 
Silk rustled in the stillness. 
Miranda thought of dry grasses 
rubbing helplessly in a moaning wind. 
The cicadas went silent. 
The Commander woke. 
Alexander left off fondling Leander. 
Amanda laid aside her palm frond. 
The lilies slept on the quiet pond. 
Lorna lifted her head, her limp locks 
slipping over her shoulders. 
The flies, flush with lemonade, 
settled on the rim of the pitcher 
and waited with motionless wings. 
A fungus-pale face emerged, 
like a Polaroid developing, 
above the yew shaded walk. 
Under the face the darker shadows 
formed into a gown 
five generations out of fashion. 
A fierce old woman stood 
in mourning silk and laces 
just on the edge of the sun 
like a raven with ill tidings. 
Miranda on the verandah
shivered and squeezed her panda. 

Amanda turned and hurried into the house 
crossing her bosom in panic. 
Leander and Alexander peeped 
through the branching oleander. 
Languorous Lorna leapt from her lawn chair. 
The Commander rose from his wicker rocker, 
to peer at the figure on the walk. 
“Great Aunt Cassandra’s Ghost!” 
he exclaimed and fell back in the rocker. 
It creaked under his weight. 
The apparition laughed. 
The screech was nerve-destroying, 
like a death cry of dolphins. 
“Not sober, Nephew Evander? 
Too much rum in the lemonade?” 
The ghostly whisper 
rattled like dry sticks.
The Commander forbore to answer. 
Miranda’s Mamá, 
Amanda behind her, 
drifted onto the verandah 
dressed in blue linen 
pale as water 
under a winter sky. 
“Great Aunt Cassandra, 
what a lovely surprise!” 
Her voice was a flute song, 
liquid melody in the languid heat. 
“Do come perch on the porch. 
We’ve lemonade, already made.” 
“Great Aunt Cassandra 
died a hundred years ago, Mamá.” 
Lorna’s voice was harsh and sour. 
“I don’t think we’ve lemonade 
enough to wet her bones.” 
Mamá Letitia’s fluting voice 
rose to a gargling shriek 
as she slumped to the porch. 
She lay there like water 
spilled in a puddle 
waiting for the sun 
to suck it up. 
Miranda held her panda 
in front of her to defend her. 
“By the holy jacaranda, 
sacred to the best of families,” 
she demanded of the apparition, 
“what brings you here, 
Great Aunt Cassandra’s Ghost?” 
The menacing whisper was clear
though it did not stir the heat-heavy air. 
“The Yankees are coming! 
They’ve burned Atlanta! 
The Yankees are coming! 
They’re marching on Savannah! 
Beware!  Beware!  Beware!” 
With a loud ululation 
the apparition evaporated. 
In the silence that followed, 
the cicadas began to croon 
in the summer afternoon. 
The thirsty flies 
dived into the lemonade. 
Amanda lifted Mamá Letitia 
from the verandah 
to carry her into the gloom 
that huddled in the house. 
Leander caressed Alexander. 
Alexander giggled among the oleanders. 
Sister Lorna reclined on the lawn chair, 
her fingers twisting her limp locks. 
Commander Sanders snored again, 
a gentle sound, like muffled tubas 
keeping the beat for a distant band. 
Miranda hugged her panda 
and prayed on the verandah 
for the repose of ancestral souls.

    Burning of Atlanta, scenes from "Gone with the Wind" (1939)


  1. Commanding the Military Division of the Mississippi, major general William Tecumseh Sherman invaded Georgia from the vicinity of Chattanooga, Tennessee in May 1864, opposed by the Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of Tennessee. Johnston repeatedly took up strongly entrenched defensive positions, but Sherman made flanking maneuvers around the defenses; Johnston would retreat to another prepared position, which Sherman would again outflank. Sherman crossed the Chattahoochee river on 5 July and prepared to assault Atlanta, an important railroad hub, and Johnston was replaced in his command by the more aggressive lieutenant general John Bell Hood. After a 4-month siege, Hood evacuated Atlanta on 1 September, ordered the destruction of all public buildings and any assets that could be of use to Sherman’s army, and withdrew toward Tennessee, hoping Sherman would pursue him. (Instead of following Hood, Sherman remarked, "If he will go to the Ohio River, I'll give him rations." However, he eventually detached major general George H. Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland to prevent Hood from interfering with his line of communications; Hood managed to defeat major general John Schofield’s corps at Franklin, Tennessee, on 30 November, but suffered enormous losses and was decisively defeated by Thomas at Nashville, Tennessee, on 15-16 December.) Mayor James Calhoun surrendered Atlanta on 2 September, and on 7 September Sherman ordered the city's civilian population to evacuate. The capture of Atlanta helped turn public opinion toward president Abraham Lincoln’s re-election in November. On 11 November, Sherman ordered the destruction of Atlanta's remaining military assets and on 15 November resumed his march toward the Atlantic ocean, against meager opposition from lieutenant general William J. Hardee's Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Without supply lines, Sherman operated deep within enemy territory but destroyed military targets as well as industry, infrastructure, and civilian property, thus disrupting the Confederacy's economy and transportation networks. On 10 December he reached the outskirts of Savannah, Georgia, and demanded that Hardee surrender the city on 17 December. Hardee evacuated on 20 December, and on 21 December mayor Richard Dennis Arnold surrendered in exchange for a promise that the citizens and their property would be protected. In a letter to general Henry Halleck, the general-in-chief, he wrote, “We are not only fighting armies, but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies. I know that this recent movement of mine through Georgia has had a wonderful effect in this respect. Thousands who had been deceived by their lying papers into the belief that we were being whipped all the time, realized the truth, and have no appetite for a repetition of the same experience.” In January he marched north and engaged Johnston again, who had been restored to command of the Army of Tennessee; near Durham Station, North Carolina on 26 April 1865, Johnston surrendered all Confederate forces in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

  2. The burning of Atlanta was one of the 1st scenes shot for the "Gone with the Wind" movie, long before any actors were hired for the project. Producer David O. Selznick personally operated the controls for the explosives that incinerated the Skull Island wall from the 1933 "King Kong" set. Production began in 1938. Later Clarence Slifer of the Selznick International Pictures matte department added the people and horses.


Join the conversation! What is your reaction to the post?