Bivouac Near Trenton

Good thing my life contains more than one story
And I won’t be able to see it whole on my deathbed
With any more certainty than I can now.
Good it’s not a war that hinges on a final battle
After years of skirmishes, fitful and inconclusive.
So what if today the armies of General Washington
Had to stage a retreat, Harlem Heights abandoned.
The soldiers who take each day as it comes
Can be happy they didn’t panic.
Now they’re falling asleep by the river
In tents or in open air, where I’m ready to join them
As soon as I make my devotions to Night,
The goddess who’ll protect this day from invasion,
From any plot hatched by tomorrow.
And now as the tent flap rustles in the wind
I’ll finish this letter to you by the fitful candle.
It’s cold crossing the Delaware in the grip of winter
And at night it’s scary, what with the ice floes.
It’s warm inside this letter. No need for mittens.
You were out the day I called to make my declaration
Of independence from the tyrant ambivalence
Who blocked my pursuit of happiness, so I’m writing.
Night has pulled my phrases beyond revision
Up to the safety of the starry sky
Where Jefferson’s silvery words twinkle untarnished,
Untouched by the story that he dies in debt,
Monticello lost to his family,
The slaves he’d hoped to free still slaves.
Carl Dennis