June 1982

“Carthage,” Ensign, June 1982, 51


When oak accepts a stain, it holds tenacious.

Smoke clears. Panic scatters blackened faces

like the butcher shrike explodes a sparrow

flock. The wounded man waits, hidden in narrow

silence: “I want you to live. Tell the world

how trust was slain by treachery.” Outside,

reluctant cicadas resume their hum,

measuring the humid afternoon. Warm

echoes filter past the shattered door: “Bullets

shall fly like hail, your friends fall left and right.”

Far off, in deep woods, the lonely cuckoo

mourns for Carthage, for new widows in Nauvoo,

for innocent martyrdom, staining bright

the jailhouse floor. Oak never forgets.