A Young Girl At Colleville-sur-Mer, c. 1956

She slumped by the archway of the Chapel,

Forlorn, beaten in fact;

She had come to these grounds from Plattsburgh,

(Cold, martial little city home to General Wood’s summer flings)

To lay a wreath she’d bought near the train station at Bayeux

Purchased from a women at a small shop table,

Who’d had the grace not to haggle over-much,

Knowing full well why someone would make such a purchase.

She’d hoped to lay it at her brother’s marker;

He’d been lost at Omaha, likely before he’d set foot on the sand

(She’d no ideas of such things at the time,

Death being a thing that happened to rabbits

Their old shepherd chased down in the back yard,

Or dolls her little brother had pulled the heads off of)

But the plot number given to her with such confidence

By the young adjutant from the War Department

Had a name wholly unknown to her

(Where the information was bollixed she had no way of knowing,

Not that officialdom would be any more help to her,

With so many sons in Scranton,

So many husbands in Hamtramck,

So many fathers and brothers in the same boat)

And so she sat, overwhelmed with the distance she’d come,

The magnitude of her failure and its implications,

And the whole damn burden of simple humanity

When she was approached by an older man,

Who clearly resided nearby

(Why he was here less evident—the hush of the venue, perhaps,

Possibly some corporal he was indebted to).

He’d understood her predicament in an instant,

No doubt a scene he’d witnessed scores of times before,

Laissez-le sur un monument funéraire,

He crooned, patting her forearm

Ce n’est pas important, and he sauntered away.

She’d considered heeding his advice, but she remained hostage

To some vestige of latter-day Babbitesque can-do,

And so she soldiered back toward the endless rows of marble,

Stretching out in endless parallel lines

As some middle-school perspective perspective drawing

Without borders, without end.

 

 

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14 thoughts on “A Young Girl At Colleville-sur-Mer, c. 1956

  1. “The whole damn burden of simple humanity.” I love that line. I, too, have spent time in a graveyard, searching for headstones, but this one sounds much vaster, and the search more daunting. A great write.

  2. while young I played in the cemetery across the golf course from our houses, warred with dirt-clods against the neighbors, dared each other to run up to the edge and peer in a fresh-dug hole, picked giant yellow banana slugs and flung them at the screaming girls who ran with us, and in the dusk, while the near yet far foghorn tolled in the lowering gloom, watched shivering as wet dripped from the forever ancient moss bearding the ancient cypress who stood silent guard – never truly comprehending the solemnity of loss. especially that one time I took flowers from a grave to give to my mother for mother’s day – and the look she gave me, I’ll never forget, as she asked, ‘where did you get these? – knowing, of course, my answer before it left my lips. ~

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