Poetry Moment: 'Haunted Gettysburg' by Brian Fanelli
This is Poetry Moment on WPSU, a weekly program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Your host is poet and author Marjorie Maddox, a 2023 Monson Arts Fellow, and professor of English and creative writing at the Lock Haven campus of Commonwealth University.
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'Tis the season to be frightened: horror movies, spooky hayrides, and Freddie Krueger. Across Pennsylvania, historical ghost tours also are big business. In today’s poem, “Haunted Gettysburg,” Brian Fanelli asks us to look beyond gimmicks to what really haunts us.
Fanelli writes regularly about the horror genre for Signal Horizon Magazine, HorrorBuzz.com and other outlets. His latest book is Waiting for the Dead to Speak (NYQ Books). Fanelli has an M.F.A. from Wilkes University and a Ph.D. from Binghamton University. He’s an Associate Professor of English at Lackawanna College.
The thrill lurking within a horror movie may be that we, as viewers, escape at the end. Although we were frightened, the blood was not ours. But history is a different matter. It keeps repeating its losses, its courage—and its stories. Is that what we fear most—the real stories? In today’s poem, Brian Fanelli begins with Ghostbusters and ends with empathy and understanding.
The Dobbin House menu declares:
as seen on BBC, History Channel, Ghost Hunters.
Our tour guide jokes,
A few years ago they closed Baltimore Street,
fogged up the place, sent a TV crew
with Ghostbuster’s gear, dubbed Gettysburg
most haunted town in America.
The real story unfolds within bullet-marked brick,
where a Confederate sharpshooter perched
near an attic window, shot civilian Jennie Wade.
A few on tour drift towards the building,
close their eyes, touch the pockmarked facade,
as though to hear pops of gunfire and sniff out
whiffs of powder and tobacco.
Down the street, a lantern-lit ghost tour passes,
the host's face painted skeleton white,
fake blood smeared around his mouth.
Another gimmick, our guide says.
He then asks how we're haunted, confesses
he's an ex-NY firefighter who inhaled
dust and ash after 9/11, smelled the rot
of flesh like those Gettysburg civilians.
He turns to us, tells us to re-walk
Pickett's Charge, where grass bows to October winds.
He tells us to hold our spouse's hand,
imagine the roar of cannons, the cries of men,
their blood seeping into soil,
their stories lingering over this town
like mist hanging over the battlefield.
This poem initially appeared in Manzano Mountain Review.
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That was “Haunted Gettysburg” by Brian Fanelli.
Listen for Poetry Moment with Marjorie Maddox Mondays during Morning Edition and All Things Considered on WPSU. You can more episodes at wpsu.org/poetrymoment.
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