The Burning Face

If I believed in hell,
I’d tell you what I saw
was Robert E. Lee’s
bearded face burning
red hot with shame

for giving his heart
to that cause, “the worst
for which a people ever fought,”
and I’d say “Goddamn
him, and all the excuses.”
But I don’t believe in God
or Goddamn. What
I believe in is the sword

lowered into the forge
along with the master
torn from his high horse
and turned into better metal
just as the forge of history
has melted my own sorry heart.

About the Poem

Last week, the Charlottesville, Virginia statue of Confederate General, Robert E. Lee, was disassembled and melted down in a forge. The Washington Post, had an image of the Lee’s face in the furnace that they posted on X. As someone who grew up in a Florida city where my neighborhood public high school was Lee High School, I couldn’t help but feel history continuing to touch (and teach) all of us.

About the Author

Matthew Murrey is the author of the poetry collection Bulletproof (Jacar Press, 2019). He’s published widely, most recently in The Dodge, Bear Review, and Redheaded Stepchild. He was a public school librarian for 21 years and lives in Urbana, IL with his partner. His website is: and he can be found on Instagram, Twitter/X, and Bluesky under the handle @mytwords.

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