“Here You Are”: Poetry for an Unknown Union Soldier

Sharing some historical, Civil War era photographs this month… I know photographs don’t talk, but sometimes the image can grip the heart.

That’s the way I felt when I saw the photograph of this young Union soldier on Library of Congress’s website. I stopped what I was working on at the time and just studied his face. It was a reminder I needed that we’re all human with hopes, fears, successes, mistakes. Some original verses of poetry followed my tears as I took time to stop, look, think, and wonder what happened to this young man who remains unidentified in the archive files.

Here you are.
Long since gone, but staring at me
From a photograph case.
Tell me your story.

But you are long since gone, 
Your photograph unidentified.
Once upon a time, you lived.
You slept. You smiled. You felt.

What made you put on a uniform?
How did your family respond?
How did you feel when you marched to war?
How quickly did you learn the business of killing?

Did you look back one last time to home?
Did they run to greet you when you came back?
Or did something else happen?
Something that closed your steady gaze too soon.

Was it instant? (If it happened)
Was it long and painful?
Did you disappear in a blaze of fire?
Or did you live — broken and healed in mind?

Tell me your story
Through the silence of the photograph case.
Long ago, but daring me to see and rethink:
Here you are.

(Poetry by Sarah Kay Bierle, November 2020. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.)

Published by Sarah Kay Bierle

I’m Sarah Kay Bierle, author, speaker, and researcher. Past and present, everyone has a story. What will we discover and discuss?

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