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Tuesday, October 11, 2005


by Thomas D. Reynolds

For all terrorists who justify their cause,
this monument is dedicated.
This cabin owned by a distant relative
and visited occasionally by Brown
when he traveled through the area
in his efforts to free the slaves.
The "Battle of Osawatomie" was fought near here,
though no one was actually killed.
I say the burning was a proper re-dedication.
The arsonist who stole two Civil War rifles
and then torched the cabin to cover his tracks
provided what no mayor's speech ever could:
the presence of Brown's anarchic spirit,
his passion, the scarred leathery skin.
The rather mundane assortment of artifacts
and printed cards didn't belong in a shrine
Even the grim portrait over the hearth
with beady eyes and gaunt face
couldn't have enticed Brown's ghost to visit
so far away from Harper's Ferry.
A thousand John Brown Jamboree Parades
couldn't accomplish as much as a cheap lighter
and a gallon of unleaded gasoline.
What would Brown think of the arsonist?
He would have admired his methods,
but would have thought he got little return.
Several guns over a century old
and a reputation among local law enforcement.
An inauspicious start for a cause of freedom.
Next time, scout the arsenal more accurately,
chose your strike for maximum impact,
and kill an innocent, say the caretaker,
to punctuate your will and intent.
Not bad for your reputation either.
Maybe Brown was even in the passenger seat
holding an old rusty musket with bayonette
watching the fire in the rear view mirror
as they headed for the Missouri border.

Thomas D. Reynolds received an MFA in creative writing from Wichita State University, currently teaches at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in various print and online journals, including New Delta Review, Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon-The Journal of Sport Literature, Flint Hills Review, The MacGuffin, The Cape Rock, The Pedestal Magazine, Eclectica, Strange Horizons, Combat, 3rd Muse Poetry Journal, and Ash Canyon Review.