Donald Mang: One Nation Under God
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Writer’s Digest Award Winner:

The Silent Sentinel

Oh, Mother Earth, how serene you look
With your rolling hills and dales
That cradle your fields and brooks and trees
And wheat in its golden bales.

You have wed your lover, Father Time
And concealed your past to the eye.
But your love for those within your bosom
Will never, never die.

Your union with the Father of Time
Has covered your turbulent past,
And his seasons have softened your heart and soul
That mellows in your grass.

We stand here now and look over
Your stately form and features,
Your peaceful glance and lasting romance
With your past and present creatures.

If we did not know your secret thoughts
And what had gone before,
We could only surmise that you always were
Another field or just a moor.

But I must call on you to share
What you hold so very dear;
For in this way, your wisdom may
Be imparted to every ear.

You see me stand before you
With a child here by my side,
And he should know what happened here
To his lineage at the ebb tide.

We know it must be painful to
Open this wound in your heart,
But we will be gentle and sit here quietly
If you’d care to share it all or in part.

Did I hear you murmur from your very depths
That said we must be reverent?
And, if I did, I can assure you, we will be
As an old and dearest friend.

You say it happened long ago
In the flurry of an instant?
These men were coming with arms in hand
From near and very distant?

Oh, here comes Johnny, who used to play
In my meadows and my streams.
But he looks very serious now
Marching so straight and so lean.

I see some men who traversed my roads
To sell their crops at harvest time.
Some going North, some going South;
This had a reason and a rhyme.

But now they come with loaded guns
To banish one another.
It grieves my heart to see this thing
Turning brother against his brother.

Before it was so tranquil;
It all had such a reason.
But now I do not understand;
I hear some say it’s treason.

The farmer had his fence of stone
Separating the crops he planted;
And without warning, they were blown apart
By fire from distant cannon.

Some soldiers crouched behind the rubble;
Some fired from behind a tree.
Some came running on the double,
And some hollered, “Follow me!”

The wheat was trampled under foot
By soldiers Blue and Grey
And I could hear some anguished cries,
“Help me, God, I pray!”

The golden wheat bent down its tassels,
As if to pray in mourning;
And then turned red by a flurry of lead
And blushed from dusk till dawning.

While over here in the den they call Devil,
The storm continues to thunder
With Billy Yank and Johnny Reb
Tearing each other asunder.

The Little Round Top, vacated for a while
Becomes a priceless treasure;
And the price it cost was very dear—
Too much for one to measure.

That moment in time, the price was paid
By the silent spirits upon that hill
Beneath the sod their blood had won
With courage and valor and steadfast will.

Over there, on Farmer Culp’s little hill
Where his son would play
All night and day,
He now partakes to kill.

The minnies whiz and trees are split,
And more men breathe their last.
The future is now melding
With the antiquated past.

This great upheaval that is
Tearing up my land
Has now become so mortal—
Men are fighting hand to hand.

Over there, by the railroad cut,
It builds to a high intensity.
They fall in droves, many in rows,
And some there have to flee.

And now, my friends, who stand
Here upon my turf,
I will let you know what a terrible blow
Struck my heart and tore up my earth.

The third began warm and sunny,
But now my landscape was red.
The dying and the wounded were all about,
With wails and moans and deep silence from the dead.

Fifteen thousand men in gray
Emerged from the shady wood
Determined to win or die for their cause,
This flower of Southern manhood.

They took their places in this vast array
To form a magnificent sight,
Not knowing how many would still be there
To witness the morning sunlight.

There was a time when church bells rang
And lovely maidens waved farewell;
And mother clutched them to their breasts,
And marching bands their veins did swell.

But that was long, so long ago
When youth and life were, oh, so sweet,
And birds did soar so high and free
Before the drums began their beat.

As if through a looking glass
Or some cloudy mist in distant past
Of battles fought and victories won,
They remained undaunted in their task.

The lines were formed, the men were readied,
The flags unfurled, the horses steadied,
The orders given, the march begun.
This great battle must be won.

And cannons spewed their fiery death;
The boiling cauldron now was lit.
The lines were thinned, and thinned again.
They marched and wavered, but would not quit.

Some flags and banners torn to shreds
That fell to earth upon their dead;
And smoke did swirl all around;
The air did rain fiery lead.

The quiet country lane before,
Where lazy travelers strolled
Became a dreadful sight of carnage—
A bloody trough—a gruesome road.

Beyond this road to Emmitsburg,
Where half an Army, cut by shell,
Lie certain death to all who ventured
Into the mouth of seething hell.

They shot and clubbed and fought their way
Up to that long sea of blue.
The last few yards were miles away—
Achieved by only a chosen few.

As men were broken, maimed and torn,
They pressed on for their liberty—
This battered, tattered, brave little band
That marched into our history.

A hush came over this ghastly sight;
And for a moment, time stood still.
The charge had failed; all seemed lost
Upon this rise called Cemetery Hill.

And the smoke of battle rose
Up to Heaven’s gate
Along with hopes and dreams long past
And souls who had an untimely date.

And there they dug some shallow graves
And therein laid these Rebs and Yanks.
Then they placed some wooden crosses,
And on them carved their names and ranks.

They also found some nameless faces
Strewn all over this Holy Sod;
And placed some crude, unknown markers—
Their names are known only to God.

But in some far-off distant places,
Some hearts beat love for everyone
Who carried torches for their warriors
Ever since the struggle had begun.

Their uniforms were soiled and bloody,
Torn and ripped by shot and shell;
Their colors faded from the elements,
Still on their backs where they fell.

And not so very long ago,
With nimble fingers and tear-filled eyes,
Some mothers sewed these brand-new garments
Before they said their last goodbyes.

O dearest lonely soldier boy,
Wherever you may be,
May your garments shine so brightly now
And your spirit be light and free.

May the angels take you on their wings
And place you in the Garden of Love
May you march in ranks so glorious and holy
That lead you to our God above.

The cannons have cooled their deadly flames.
They stand in orderly rows
Like silent sentinels on the hillside.
Silenced forever? God only knows.

New peaches grow in the old Peach Orchard
Where men were killed in the summer breeze,
And bear good fruit for the farmer,
Just as they did back in ‘63.

The wheat still grows toward the Heavens above,
Giving life to a new generation.
The seed was planted long ago,
Giving birth to a struggling Nation.

The bugle that called men to arms
Mobilizing two great armies,
No longer trumpets the Patriots’ call
To relatives, friends and enemies.

The drums steady cadence that set the pace
On many a dusty road they tramped
Is now but an echo throughout the land
Heard once a year on fields where they camped.

Oh, Mother Earth, you guard the fallen. Heroes all
Who fought and died when duty called
In a little town they never heard,
The world knows now as Gettysburg.

Copyright 2007 Donald J. Mang

The Warning Echoes

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
The spirit of yon Paul Revere.
He comes again to warn the free,
But not “one if by land or two if by sea.”

He comes to warn of a new enemy—
One that plots his treachery.
He has mustered all of his terrible legions
And infiltrated every possible region.

You’ll find him in between our ranks,
But not with guns or planes or tanks.
He comes in the guise of judges and teachers
And textbooks and laws—and even some preachers.

He snatches our children right out of the womb;
And, failing that, he sneaks into our classrooms.
He removes the prayers they deserve to hear
Because poor Little Johnny was taught to fear.

He claims our halls of higher learning
Where God once roamed and hearts were burning
Now turned to ice—like glaciers looming,
And errors in the students grooming.

And like Frankenstein’s monster of old,
Those God has created shut Him out in the cold.
I can faintly hear old Paul’s refrain;
The warning he dost still proclaim.

He rides again to sound the alarm
To awaken us to the deadly harm.
Oh! Look yonder to the wolves at our heels;
They rob our rights in courts of appeals.

They pretend to protect our God-given rights
But plot and scheme all through the nights.
I can still hear the hoof beats of Paul’s trusty horse
That will not tarry from his daunting course.

Until free men can hear his call,
And we awaken one and all;
Arise and stand your ground, my friends,
And continue the fight to the bitter end.

Give us your might, Oh, God, we pray
Bring back our freedoms—don’t delay.
Let us profess, “One Nation Under God”
As along with faith we continue to plod.

Knowing full well You are the Victor
Let them go ahead and snicker.
We are for You and always shall be.
Yes, again—“one if by land and two if by sea.”

Copyright 2012 Donald J. Mang

The Last Edition

The cold wind blew in from the West that night
Covering the streets in glistening white,
And in that feathery virgin snow
Could be seen some footprints in a single row.

A solitary soul was bent on a mission
To report some news about nuclear fission.
He opened his shop and set up his type
To print his newspaper all through the night.

And just before the ink had dried
And the old man was happy that he had tried
To warn the peaceful little town
About the danger soon to come down

In a heartbeat, removed from the scene,
Were the footprints, the shop, and all in between.
And, as if smothered by a giant shroud,
All that remained was a mushroom cloud.

The murky air, so foul with poison,
Hung as a pall from season to season.
The Earth had turned many revolutions
To spin the death from its institutions.

And many a year passed from the scene;
Then suddenly up sprouted something green.
The Good Lord waved His winnowing fan;
And when He was done, He recreated man.

Then two little children digging in the sand
Discovered something strange in their newfound land.
An old printing press under a tree
And beneath—a newspaper that read WORLD WAR THREE!

Copyright 2012 Donald J. Mang