from Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel about the Battle of Gettysburg: Killer Angels

“Lawrence, I been down to the hospital. Godawful mess. No shade, no room. They lying everywhere, out in the sun. They cuttin’ off arms and legs right out in the open, front of everybody, like they did at Fredericksburg. God, they ought to know better, they ought not to do that in public. Some of them people die. Man ought to have privacy at a time like that. You got to yell sometimes, you know? Lord . . .”
“Did you see Kilrain?”
Tom nodded. He sat with his back against the wall, the small stone wall this side of the dead horses, plucking grass. He sighed.
Chamberlain said, “How is he?”
“Well, Lawrence, he died.”
“Oh.” Chamberlain said. He blinked. The world came into focus. He could see leaves of the trees dark and sharp against the blue sky. He could smell the dead horses.
“He died this morning, ‘fore I got there. Couple of the boys was with him. He said to tell you goodbye and that he was sorry.”
Chamberlain nodded.
“It wasn’t the wounds. They say his heart give out.”
Chamberlain had stopped wrapping his bloody foot. Now he went on. But he could see the weary Irish face, the red-nosed leprechaun. Just one small drink, one wee pint of the cruel . . .
Tom said, “I tell you, Lawrence, I sure was fond of the man.”
“Yes,” Chamberlain said.
Tom said nothing more. He sat plucking grass. Chamberlain wrapped the foot. The moment was very quiet. He sat looking down at his bloody leg, feeling the gentle wind, the heat from the south, seeing Kilrain dead on a litter, no more the steady presence. Sometimes he believed in a Heaven, mostly he believed in a Heaven; there ought to be a Heaven for young soldiers, especially young soldiers, but just as surely for the old soldier; there ought to be more than just the metallic end, and then silence, then the worms, and sometimes he believed, mostly he believed, but just this moment he did not believe at all, knew Kilrain was dead and gone forever, that the grin had died and would not reappear, never, there was nothing beyond the sound of the guns but vast dark, the huge nothing, not even silence, just an end . . .

Untitled Poem by T’ao Ch’ien

Days and months never take their time.
The four seasons keep bustling each other

away. Cold winds churn lifeless branches.
Fallen leaves cover long paths. We’re frail,

crumbling more with each turning year.
Our temples turn white early, and once

your hair flaunts that bleached streamer,
the road ahead starts closing steadily in.

This house is an inn awaiting travelers,
and I yet another guest leaving. All this

leaving and leaving—where will I ever
end up? My old home’s on South Mountain.

translated by David Hinton