After the Civil War
a Miltonian Sonnet with a Double Coda
by Thomas Davis
As Ambrose Betts gulped down the whiskey shot
That Gullickson had given him, his face
Was flushed, the muscles in his neck a knot
So tight he winced, his outrage out of place
Inside the cabin’s half lit single room.
“A Winnebago brave! I tell you Gullickson,”
He said. “As large as life inside the gloom
Of Miner’s kitchen, Bullock looking drawn,
As if he’d seen a ghost, as black as coal.
I’ve never seen the like before!” he yelled.
“An Indian, white man, black man like a shoal
Of pebbles on a beach. The Indian held
His hand up, said, I swear, to Bullock, “You,”
He said. “The first white man I ever knew.”
“Old Bullock, black as night,
Smiled with those teeth of his
So dazzlingly bright white
My head began to fizz.
“And Miner looked like God
About to haul back, smack
The Indian into sod.
A white man that is black!”