The Red Flagged House
by Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt

You say you are here to protect us,
the man-less, the son-less, the tepid wives
wafting through misused rooms of our
home-turned-makeshift-hospital.  But
the divan is upholstered in wounded,

dun rags stacked on our armoire,
gauze, iodine, ammonia, spirits following
the hems of our dresses.  “We cannot fit
one more!” we cry.  But you are deaf with war.
“We have nothing left to give you!” we

wail, but the moans of our warriors bury us
in bandages and heat rash and fungus.  Our dresser
lies on its back, an oaken cot for Confederates,
our maple table forced to feed soldiers to surgeons,
and everywhere, blood of our bold and our young

re-paints our wood, our walls, our memories.
We shuttle torn uniforms from what was home
to hearth, stir some in our soup cauldrons, burn others
to stay the fire, the fetid smoke of our torched ideals
and stained coverlets greeting each new casualty.

You say you are here to protect us, we your women
who don’t want war, we who try to heal hurts,
scouring basins with our old lace, sucking up sweat
with our linens, mending the last blankets we own,
and asking, “Who will protect us from you?”

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WbtR member Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt is the author of Poems from the Battlefield, a Civil War themed collection of her poetry and photos, as well as archival photos and period quotes.  “The Red Flagged House,” one of the poems in the collection, was inspired by the Stone House at Manassas National Battlefield Park.
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