Weekly Poem: Nikki Giovanni reads ‘The Lost Cause … Lost’

BY artsdesk  April 28, 2014 at 10:23 AM EDT


Nikki Giovanni reads her poem “The Lost Cause … Lost” at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.

The Lost Cause … Lost

The buzz of the flies
Almost were a lullaby
Rocking the dead
To a restful place

You couldn’t hear the ants
Though they were
Clearly there
In the mouths
Any wound or soft
Tissue

The worms had come
Understanding those
Which were not
Trampled
Would have a great
Feast

The grasses had no
Choice but to drink
Down the blood and bits of flesh
That was ground
Into them

In the future
It would be girls
Not field rats
Who would follow soldiers
Into the trenches

In the future there
Would be single
Engine airplanes
Dropping bombs

And then
In the scientific imagination
Of the 21st century
There would be men
And women
Pushing buttons
Making war clean
And distant

But today
On This battlefield
The deadliest of This war
The Song Birds had been
Frightened off

The Turkey Buzzards retreated to watch
Deer Skunk Raccoons
Possum Groundhogs gathered
To let the smoke clear

And only the moans
Of the almost dead
And the quiet march of Lice
Gave cadence to this concert of sacrifice
For
Freedom

Nikki Giovanni’s poem “The Lost Cause … Lost” is published in “Lines in Long Array: A Civil War Commemoration: Poems and Photographs, Past and Present.” In recognition of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery commissioned 12 modern poets to reflect on our contemporary understanding of the war.