Lafayette, we are here

The first poem I wrote after arriving in Providence had an epigraph, "after reading Apollinaire".  That was 44 years ago, in the spring of 1970.  I'm still after Apollinaire, I guess.  This is another "occasional poem", on the sad occasion of the 100 years of war since the War to End All Wars began (in which my grandfather, Edward S. Gould, was a captain in the 124th Artillery.  "Lafayette, we are here").

(A few days ago I remembered that in my grandparents' apartment, near the U of M & the Mississippi River, there was to be seen not only Grandpa's big brass shell ("the last shell fired in the Great War," he always said), & not only his rack of ever-present pipes & tobacco fumes, but also an old print, hanging over the dinner table - a formal 18th-century dance, with Lafayette twirling on his toes, & George Washington & friends off to one side, looking on.)


That pudgy Parisian poet-vet
tattooed all over with scars –
a Queequeg of the War
to End All Wars (but not just yet) –

he of the blundered parentage (the
Pope was perhaps his father?)
– all that Roman bother –
a fenced-in pyramidical sage

gypsoid tumbleweed, fuming
over his Dallas Lorelei
across the Rhine (goodbye,
good luck)... O trench-spit spuming

rural rose!  & the grapevine murmurs
Marne, Loire... the soil
of France – the ceaseless toil
of dew, pour l’amour de Dieu (showers

of tipsy fireflies in the wind-blown
hair of remote by-ways, so
gently merveilleuse)...
Adroit the boatman, who hath sewn

these sails – hath bent these anchored ribs
into prow, & figure-
head (one pierced oreille);
subtle the fisherman (Gennesareth

swab) who scanned these Galilean farms
with an ear to the waves.
Apr├Ęs l’Armistice, he saves
a little pipesmoke... (ashen charms).


Guillaume Apollinaire

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