• a multiplicity of steel

    i remember the square / of course i do

     

    my brothers and i would visit in mid-may / the blossoms withered and fell on the cobblestones / their less fortunate siblings landing in puddles / like paper boats / they would soak and fall to pieces / women would congregate and gossip / between the school bell’s first ring / and the coal miner’s return / though the world spun with mind numbing velocity / the square remained still / a constant

     

    there stood a fountain of tepid waters / beneath a steel statue / a goddess / amphitrite / towering above her miniature ocean / robes and waterfalls cascading down her body / cherubs and gods dancing at her feet / she stirred up discontent in the adjacent convent / but pride from the rest of the town

     

    she never impressed visitors / from paris / or marseille / they never understood / the power a small rusty statue could have on a town / she was no notre dame / or arc de triomphe / but she was ours / they could never know / what dipping into her fountain was like / treading on francs / just to place a hand on her cold feet / and peer into her eyes / or my brother’s face as he gave a ring to the one he loved below her solemn gaze / or how she would be draped in garlands and ribbons at christmas time / instilling more resentment from the nuns / how my family would sing carols through her square / multitudes joining in douce nuit / one united choir serenading our matron / i would whisper joyeux noel to her as we left / every year

     

    the month i turned eleven / the first shots erupted / and the war office melted the statue down for bullets

     

    the month i turned twelve / my brothers left out the garden gate / towards verdun / and a dozen candles laid where she once stood

     

    the month i turned thirteen / a bomb obliterated the square / turning my father / and six others / into a billowing cloud

     

    and now i am certain / the goddess lies in the shattered skull / of a soldier / in a grave that reads / known but to god / who will never wave a flag of victory / and board a train home / to embrace a woman who is clutching the edge of the sink / eyes fixed on the hazy distance / praying / counting the stones of a country road / leading to a front gate that will never open