Contested Ground by Thomas Martin Sobottke

Copyright 2013 by Thomas Martin Sobottke Written and dedicated to the citizens of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on the Occassion of the 150th Anniversaries of the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address


It is all contested ground you know.
All of it.

From the great sharpened white peaks, and others smudged red,
others blue in shadow,
the Rocky Mountains all the way to the Alleghenies
in all their majesty.

From the balmy blue swaying seas of the Pacific to the very outer islands
snatched from native peoples,
to the cold clammy white capped Atlantic,
to New England shores where Yankees looking for the main chance hold sway.

From the valorous and honor bound Southern people
who like nothing better than a good scrap,
to the brawling rough settlers of the Western Reserve still westward
to the Mississippi and its winding waters flowing to the sea
rival to the Nile,

and Northward to the Santee-Sioux
waiting patiently for the food and recompense
promised them by the white father
in Washington, their greatest chief.

From the most eastward place where slave fields infect
and bring that fatal contradiction
to birth free and equal
onward to the most western place
where one man
falsely imprisons the body;
the very soul, the essence
of another man.

Even the peoples along the great river they call the Rio Grande
are not immune to the disease
that sweeps through them all
and denies the work of the Creator,
the Great Blacksmith that fashions
all that is,
all that is known or all that could be known,
and overtakes the work of human hands;
all they have built with such prideful arrogance
to copy the great example of the smithy’s sure hands.

The Great Blacksmith has hammered out a song
for all the people to hear; to sing,
of equality between man and man
of love instead of fear,
denying the self
of making every sacrifice
our very dying wish.

But some refuse to hear or sing the song,
making it contested ground.

We stand at Gettysburg
a century and a half
from the sound of the guns.
We remove the sandals from our feet
for we know we stand on sacred ground.

The paramount decision made
by force of arms,
whether the people
would take up the Great Blacksmith’s song,
or run away from its melodies in shame,
denying their full birthright,
never to hear its sweet and healing notes,
never to realize all the Creator wished for the prodigal son.

Whether the patient suffering of brown and black
sweating bodies torn by the lash would continue
and contradict the truth of the birthright song,
a birth that is free and equal
the burning cinder, a question on billions of quivering lips.

Whether the new birth of freedom spoken of
by the great white chief of the northern people
would become the dreams dreamt
by the sons and daughters of them all.

The very ground underneath our feet remains contested ground.
For some always refuse to hear
to pretend the great guiding beacon, the first principle
of our people
cannot be spoken or given to them all.

Yet a prodigious train of billowing steam
runs on its inexorable righteous track,
gentle, unwavering justice,
the birthing of a republic,
a pure ethical idea that cannot be defeated.

We must march to the sound of the guns
and proclaim the Great Blacksmith’s song
to the very ends of the lands of our people;
to others who even now rush to hear it and draw near.

Let us sing the Great Blacksmith’s song,
and wear it on our hearts
to proclaim right from wrong,
so it may be heard and sung to all eternity
by the mighty throng.

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