Peak of Big Shanty: Dreaming


You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it... —William T. Sherman, General, U.S. Army

Here I am again, fainting numb into the storm. Rain plays scales like shellfire in mud: ricochets off my body bag: sounds like Kerbaj playing a thunderous trumpet of the dead: blasting static rhythm of car alarms: last breath’s low note. I dream myself a warrior angel...diffusing bombs...left at the end of the shadows of men who have fallen in the trenches between idea and reality: their shadows so thin, light passes through. As translucent as my eyelids, the lightning above the polluted skyline pulls me down into a sea of starlight, broken by cannons firing into the dead angle of hell itself, fragmenting out into the big dipper. These are the shadows— faces caked, scarred, and rippling as a pile of flags—of our great grandfathers and uncles: forever-removed. In the mud flats, I see them wrestling into each other: my grandfather sprawled out, reflected in a pool of hematoma. I want to ask him how to be something more than the damaged nerves and skin that blankets my back, legs and hands. How to fight the image of flag & shadow in which he made me. But his face is my own, glinting off the jagged rock he used to bash in a Union boy’s head. See, young men (boys really), want to understand war: to ingest and get drunk on it. To camp on the battlefields of Kennesaw Mountain & down a fifth of Old Grand Dad. All of this occurring, more or less, I awoke to Sherman whispering in my ear: You cannot refine it. But if war can’t be refined, then why’s it go down so smooth?

JOSHUA MORGAN FOLMAR is a Texas-based artist and educator. An Alabama native, Joshua received his MFA in Writing from the University of New Hampshire where he was awarded the Young P. Dawkins III Endowed Prize in Creative Writing for his poetry thesis Here We Rest. His work appears in such anthologies as Mark My Words and Liver of Dixie: Stories from Egan’s, as well as the publications Permafrost, DewPoint, and Marr’s Field Journal, among others. Joshua works as a writing specialist at Southern Methodist University, serves as an assistant poetry editor of the Saranac Review, and is the founder and program director of Writing Over War: a DFW-based workshop of The Writer’s Garret for veterans and others that have been affected by war. He resides in Dallas with his wife and two rescue cats.