Sunday, November 15, 2015

Standing With France

Well, sure, I stand with France, no more or less
than I did yesterday: I meanFrance
that sent the fleet to Yorktown, Comte de Grasse

kissing Washington on both cheeks, you remember, hein?
and ladies of Paris, who tickled Ben Franklin's 
ambassadorial toes of a morning

we go way back, France and us. Way back.
But as the dawn rolls across the uplands, gray and sad,
my finger traces my river's long descent, 

a shallow groove as of a Gallic beaver 
dragging its tail in the New World sand.
Let alone, say, all the hats and pipes,

and the voluble suspect chatter of men
who slyly learned the Iroquois, and 
taught our English Wordsworth how to sin:

no more or less than we did yesterday. 
Listen: it is not heroic to suffer
it is simply how the chain breaks, here and here.

L'héroïsme, it is 
in what we bother to repair,
and what we leave alone.


Lucy said...

I like this very much, the way we internalise history, what we make of it, and how those in power use it to their own ends. And I wholeheartedly agree that suffering does not ennoble, and love the references, especially poor old Wordsworth seduced and corrupted by wicked French ways, and Ben Franklin, ça ira... History is deep colour and wonder and intolerably horrible.

It amuses me a bit, the 'oldest ally' thing; one of those handy, teasing phrases pulled out and used when it suits in the old eternal triangle between the US, England and France, and guaranteed to provoke self-satisfaction, glee, or jealous rage in one party or another, like 'special relationship','separate destiny', 'shoulder to shoulder' and indeed 'cheese eating surrender monkeys'. And there's poor old Portugal, England's oldest ally, so little use to bring in as the fourth in the scenario, rather like the dowdy ex-girlfriend who's looking pretty rough now and was never really a serious contender to make anyone jealous!

Dale said...

Oh, it is so lovely to be understood! I almost didn't post this: I didn't think many people would really get what I'm driving at. Thank you! xoxo

Jeff said...

Dale, I'm very glad you posted this. It's a complex and humane response admirably bereft of fashionable piety and snark—but it's also just a good poem.

Dale said...

Hey, thanks so much, Jeff!

Marly Youmans said...

Jeff's right. And Lucy is also right and funny to boot.

Peter said...

I was still eating Freedom fries when it happened. It's hard to keep up.