I wonder how Lee felt at Appomattox
or Napoleon at Waterloo
knowing that at one point, they stood an inch from victory
at arms length from glory
but couldn’t quite reach.
Were they mutely resigned to their assigned fates in history?
Or did they rage internally over their one lost battle,
their one lost campaign,
as if the world had just grazed against their fingertips
and flew on by without them.
And what about the men across the tables?
Did Grant know the world he forged with young men from Germany,
Ireland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Kentucky?
Could Wellington see the wars that would rage one hundred years later,
over the same things?
If they could, would they have acted differently?
Hard to say
Writers have told stories of how one small change in history could change the world
but can the flapping of a butterfly’s wing make the Nazis win the war?
Could a scrap of paper and three cigars make our one country two?
Let’s hope not and remember happily that Lee surrendered at Appomattox.