The Marjorie E. Peale Prize
Debra A. Daniel
Playing Mary Chestnut
Even in this July heat, the men high-button
their wool coats. Beneath live oaks, they gather.
In a few moments, when the director calls action,
I’ll kneel beside a gasping soldier, pen a dictated
letter to the sweetheart who promised to wait for him.
I play Miss Mary, author of the famous diary.
Earlier, I wrung my hands over my husband’s safety
while cannon fire reigned down upon Fort Sumter.
Then we shot a congenial parlor chat with Jeff Davis
and the scene in the dread of Sherman’s approach
when I contemplate burning my journals
so as not to risk imprisonment for treason.
Due to thunderstorms the director postpones the war
till next week. Before leaving, the re-enactors in jeans
and t-shirts cool off with sodas and Gatorade.
The bugle boy texts his girlfriend that he’ll be home
earlier than he thought. I hang up my mourning
clothes, relieved of grief.