Heavy Losses by Elizabeth Markley

Heavy Losses

by Elizabeth Markley

In Kennesaw, Georgia
There is a tomb
Hastily and wearily dug, I imagine
By your Union brethren
On that day in June or July, 1864

The simple marker is made of stone
I don’t know the kinds of rock they use
For headstones
But yours is smooth and white and reads only
Name Unknown

You lie so close
Two steps from the park’s main path
Close enough to touch the low fence that surrounds you
So tempting for those sweet children to climb
Before their parents read the sign

There were, the internet tells me
Heavy losses that summer
Fighting for the soul of Atlanta
Although, to be honest, those words heavy losses
Never meant much to me before

Your navy-clad brothers, the ones who also
Lost their lives on Kennesaw Mountain
Whose very name comes from Cherokee, Gah-nee-sah
It means burial ground
An apt name, don’t you think?

These brothers, they were moved to Marietta National Cemetery
(Or so the plaque indicates)
But here you lay, still and undiscovered
In the red Georgia clay
Until 1938

I suppose, whoever unearthed you
The soldier with no name
They decided to leave you be
Perhaps even ghosts
Grow accustomed to their resting place

It is my very firm belief
That your compatriots, after they gently lifted you into the ground
Wrote a letter, or maybe even
Once they reached the sea
Traveled north with your name on their lips

Found your people
In Ohio or Illinois or someplace else
And so, then, you are not unknown at all
You are
A family’s lore

I prefer to think you like your visitors
This stream of hikers, joggers, dogs on leashes
Maybe we keep you company
Maybe you like the small American flags
Planted anew every July

At least, I hope, you don’t mind us walking past
The descendants of your enemies
Or, just as likely
The descendants of your friends
(Atlanta is a transplant city now, you see)

But mostly, I hope
You don’t think of us at all


Elizabeth Markley is a writer living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her short fiction has been published in The Write Launch, The Mighty Line, Cleaning Up Glitter, The Feminine Collective, SPLASH! by Haunted Waters Press, Castabout Literary Magazine, the Raw Art Review, and Flumes. Her work was a finalist in the 2020 Slippery Elm Prose Competition. When she is not writing, she is kept busy by her children, two rambunctious boys under the age of five.

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