Gray Smoke

Thin wisps, like smoke,
that fly from the fire,
a mist late at night,
broken down, but higher,
flies past the face
of a moon I desire.
Deep in this night
two bodies aspire –
Venus and Luna,
in search for a fire.
Between we three,
an army expires –
It’s Robert E. Lee
and the troops we admire:
Thin wisps of gray smoke
drawn by the fire.
They swirl down in pills,
from deep darkened hills,
into fate
they have badly
This mass,
this fume,
is all
that now looms,
of an army
never forgotten.


©2011, Marvin Welborn.

Revised 5 July 2014.

Original Publication: Union Station and Paradigm Shift; Xlibris, March 2012.


  1. Exquisite flow and form, Marvin. I just returned from a visit to NC and the reading I did and immersion in the south made me acutely aware of the tragedy of the Civil War and the horrible sufferings both sides endured. I can’t help but extrapolate this to all conflict. Very beautifully written.

  2. I imagine the heartbreak of a battlefield, still rising in the smoke of sulfur, cries of fallen men calling for loved ones, other, uninjured men listening, promising to tell his mother or wife how brave he was in the face of death, knowing this is only a momentary reprieve, that the day is not yet over, that in a few minutes he’ll be picking up that standard of colors and marching into the face of death yet again, knowing with certainty that he will never make it home himself to keep that promise, or any of the other of hundreds he has made. Of all the wars I have ever read or heard about, none other has left me with the same sense of true devotion to ideal, bravery, and emotional expense as that of the Civil War of the United States. War is hell. To call one gallant would be mocking the face of every man who gave his life to one. But if any single war ever came close to gallantry, then it was this one. Your eerie description of rebel soldiers returning to the battlefield as wisps of smoke is quite befitting to some of the bravest, most idealistic men I think who have ever lived. Spoils go to the victor, and I think we often forget that gallantry lived in both axis of that extremely dividing conflict. Very well penned…

    • your comments reveal an insight that only comes with maturity. I agree, and the only other conflict which immediately comes to mind in ”…the same sense of true devotion to ideal, bravery, and emotional expense as that of the Civil War….” would have to be the Greek polis-states when they threw themselves against the Persians in defense. Great comment from you.

  3. It is interesting that you say it has never been forgotten. I’m not an American but I sense a big divide still between the north and south. Your poem has a sense of sadness and futility about it. The brevity adds to the impact and emotional rendering.

  4. The thread of fire in its various forms running through the stanzas makes a stirring metaphor!
    The last couplet has a note of sadness ringing through it as it bears the weight of memory.
    Beautiful write.

  5. A civil war is something difficult to understand. It wears out both sides and what is sad is the consequence and aftermath is still within the same country. Anyway, any battlefield is no paradise


  6. Profound… a sad fact in history you have captured through this strong piece. I especially like the metaphor in the title.

  7. I am in Denton, TX and this morning I took a picture of an archway in front of the courthouse and the inscription, ” Our Confederate Soldiers”. I like the poem. I must give it more consideration at my next campfire.


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