Dear Leonard, you will continue to sing and speak to us from the Tower of Song but let me just say that I did speak to you before you passed, in a poem I wrote – you might not remember! – that time you saved me. It is published in The Longing & Other Fairytale Feelings – yes, that’s right!, it was you that taught me about The Longing. And we need you too, especially during this war, we need your words, your voice, you. So now, as you take this waltz above (you have already been beyond!), I hope you will think of us too, speaking, singing, to you, through the Tower of Song.
(Pardon my French, I’ve never been very good at it!)
Don’t Mention The War
Bonjour mon cherie
Welcome to Les Landes
Pine tree city
Where human complaints are of barking deers
Who eat all of the flowers, drives them to tears
And of rugged boars who dig up the grass,
Oh, a family of five, we shall let them pass.
Typical sloped Les Landes houses
Dress the forest, a hamlet here, a village there, scattered
They aren’t that much different to the houses
We saw at the eco museum in Marquez
With large living rooms and bedrooms with tiny, high beds
Feathered around like a heavy winged bird
Like the owl we hear at night who’s call sounds to me
Like a man lost in the woods calling merde!!
In the tiny kitchen bruised toed women fight to do the dishes
So I keep my toes, with their month-old, red toenail polish
Out of the way. I would hate to drop a dish,
Not because of the polish
But in case it were an antique
Or in case the hassle will cause your mother any stress
Which may – no will! – be fired back at me any time soon.
I’ve heard about your sister in law
Who was responsible for the baking dish that dropped to the floor
Like your German mother’s history we don’t mention the war.
We drive along the tight road in an old Renault,
Fearful of going over sixty for the beast is slow
On the brakes, but she tempts us. We admire
The french windows and doors
And you tell me about how your mother
– a tasty bird, as Big Al would say – was once refused a dance
When a Frenchman found out she was German and I think
Have I been here before? No, but back in history class
We would joke – don’t mention the war!
On your right is the church and on the left
Is the old gestapo headquarters
With a nice Citroen family car parked on the front lawn
Where the boars have also found their feast but
We still don’t mention the war.
My toes are close to being bruised and so I leave to take a walk
In the woods and I think back, Leonard Cohen prompts me
–Take This Waltz – no the Frenchman wouldn’t.
And from the stories Big Al has told
There have been many people walking to the train station
Their raincoats bearing a rip on one shoulder
And divorce papers thrown to the floor
Myself not excluded, even at twenty eight
But I don’t mention the war.
I come across the gites and there is a Frenchman
With a hunting gun so I keep
My head down and I walk past their borders
Past their electric fences
And I think this is France.
Come over to the window mon cherie
And share this with me
Before the deers come to eat
The rest of the flowers, before we have to say au revoir.