Saturday, May 26, 2007

Vocabulary Raku:

once the slurry of words

infused with grog hardens to ware

you apply lead glaze to the bisque

then, carefully lay on a shelf of stone

in the traditional method, with cones

heating until polished to a porous unfinish

allowing the words to oxidize with meaning

next, you remove them from the

glowering hot still glimmering

set them in a galvanized garbage can,

filled with sawdust, straw and

newsprint; making them crackle

as they carbonize and blacken

to the noir reduction

of the fired lexicon.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A sketch of the battle of Bulls Run, when we met the enimy and they oferd fire on us:

(by special correspondence to the Sunday Mercury from the battlefield.)

near Washington 23 July 1861


While the Artillery seemed

to be assembling for conference

amid the sun-dried bowlders,

fishwives scolded and nagged

railing excitedly into

an unspeakable jumble

a rising of din over battle.


An Officer waved his

gauntleted hand sweeping

wildly at the air

of unwilling curses

despite being dragged at heals

by a besplashed charger

the western sky along.


Partly smothered in red

as a blue haze of evening

settled upon the field

he was loosed to the ground

rising to the level of his feet

twisting with the movement

plunged he deep into earth.


Pressing his hands

through the wound

a single afflicted groan

wrenched from him

causing him to expire

his face, then painted

stupefied with a smile.


This poem is an impression and a fiction of my imagination. It is based on the family letters I have read , as well as the recent novels that I have consumed. I took Art's suggestion and added what seemed like period language that I created. It is dated after the actual battle, as if it were a letter written from Washington, when the New York State Militia would have been straggling back to their camps, and writing home to describe what had transpired in this disastrous battle and its aftermath. The actual event described here-in may well have taken place at any battle during the civil war. I chose Bull Run (or Bulls Run as many of the participants called it) because it was a battle of confusion and tragic blunders on both sides. The Confederates won but much to their surprise, the Union lost miserably and to their surprise were so devastated that many injuries and losses took place in the stampede from the battlefield. There were Débutantes and Senators out for a picnic to watch on a lark. Before they knew it, they went from picnic to panic.

The Flank Marker was used by the New York State Melita, 2nd Regiment. It is this flag that I believe James Gilmour and his Tent mate Francis Perry defended bravely at the First Battle of Bull Run. For their gallant efforts they were written up in the New York Papers by their Lieutenant Simpson. It was then reprinted in the Derry Papers by James' friend George MGonikle. (I have not yet found these actual articles and base this information on more than one letter from more than one correspondent.)

The men were awarded with a testimonial signed
by their piers: their former employers, friends and associates. Also enclosed and accompanying the testimonial were Two Ten dollar Gold pieces meant to serve as Medals of Honor "besides being convenient to provide such normities as are Not furnished You ...."

The Image of the Flank Marker was found on the New York State Military Museum Web Site. The Flag has been restored by Textile Conservators for The New York State Battle Flag Project. A Worthy Cause which I whole heartedly support.

Visit their Website on-line. Go to the
New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs New York!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

No poetry today, no paintings to display, just a some cute tin-types of my ancestor and a little dubious speculation....

James Alexander Gilmour

in his Morrison Clan Tartan

with Diced Glenngarry Hat

Circa 1870


The Clan Tartan is the most readily available tartan, often being produced by the larger Mills. It is usually woven accurately and correctly named. It is often recognized by people outside the clan. Historically, it was traditional to have one tartan made up to be worn at the great hunts. This custom is probably the origin of the first Hunting tartans. Later, a hunting tartan was sometimes designed when a Clan tartan was seen as inappropriately bright for outdoor wear. A red ground for example, would not lend itself to camouflage, so a more subdued green or brown ground tartan was adopted. In other cases, the dark Hunting tartan is the oldest, and the original tartan of the clan, with others being added later for variety. Therefore, in some cases, the Hunting tartan and the clan tartans are the same. Despite the name, the Modern colors are the oldest of the color groups in existence today. The Morrison Clan has three Tartans: The Morrison Modern (Darker Green Ground) The Morrison OC (a Lighter Green Ground) and the Morrison Red Modern(with a predominantly Red Ground). As the Original of this Tintype is black and white it is possible to speculate that this is the Morrison Modern Red Tartan.

James Alexander Gilmour

in his Dress Morrison Tartan Circa 1870


The Dress Tartan:

The Dress version of the Clan's tartan usually has the clan sett laid over a white ground color. This version is indicated by placing the word "dress" before or after the clan name, as in "Dress Morrison". The Dress tartan, was created as an alternative to the darker, everyday clan tartan. It was especially nice and bright for festive occasions, as the name implies. It may have been worn by both sexes. It was considered a sign of wealth to acquire more than one tartan. To wear clothing in the most impractical color, white, was most extravagant. Old tax records show that a white "plaide" was more expensive to buy than a colored one, and of course, maintenance would be more difficult. The darker "camouflage" tartans were preferred for hunting and for military uniforms, for obvious practical reasons. So, perhaps the desire for a "dress" tartan for festive occasions is logical, and would certainly be in keeping with the temperament of the Victorians. To have a new tartan created for a special occasion would have been an expensive but distinctive undertaking.*

*(much of the source information contained here is abridged and edited from "Scottish Tartans and Family Names" by Terry L. Griest. Copyright 1986 Terry L. Griest. A definitive, and yes, Hard Core read.)