Remembrance Day

Une petite page de bloc-notes de l’an dernier, retrouvée par hasard ces jours-ci… 

Fear not, reader: I am not contemplating a future in English poetry; I just happen to take notes in whatever language volunteers first – oddities and mistakes notwithstanding. This was written a year ago, in Germany, while I was waiting for my flight to Edinburgh. Our friend Hans, from Germany-based Breton music band An Erminig, had kindly taken the time to show me a bit of his Sarre region, including a war memorial site and several crossings of a now-invisible border. 

Did they know 

Did they hope

The men buried there

Young men, resilient muscles and tendons and skin and hair

With their very own pleasures and projects

All temporarily postponed

Just this incidental nightmare

This cumbersome tax to pay before they could have a will again

Did they have time to understand

And when

That the story would go on

Their story, oh yes it would

Only without them

And that one day

That border which they were seconds away from dying defending

Would be a thing in the air

And that their grandnephew, my friend

Would drive me around, the enemy's great-grandniece

And say « see ? We've just passed it »

And take me to the hill they died on

And it would be a soft Indian summer day

There would be cheery patrons at the inn

Baby strollers around the monuments

The sound of shared music in our ears

Did some of them know

Did some of them hope

Can you go to your death and hope to be dying for nothing ?