Peak of Big Shanty: Dreaming

by Joshua Morgan Folmar

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 mind…by 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 PermafrostDewPoint, 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.