Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Dominic Tarpey

Bastille Day 1941,
I was living in Pau.
My future father-in-law spoke often of his confidence
in Petain.

I met Suzanne the day before
Bastille Day 1940 and again on that day,
and daily thereafter.

In March 1942 our child was born.
My mother-in-law stepped in to manage things,
suspicious of her daughter’s husband,
with his interest in radios and maps and atlases.

There is a cemetery near Caen
holding all the valiant boys.

My wife, my best friend, she knew it all.
The embraces given to her parents were so strong in those years,
unlike the tepid ones I received from the parents,
who worried and languished
in a town that was ordinary,
with the Continental Hotel,
poking and prodding my father-in-law
for his skill in plaster work,
applied to rooms containing soldiers of the German Reich
and refugees and disrupted lovers.

I worked my way into the hotel,
had a few close calls,
found new friends,
drew some foul looks,
tempted to cheat on my wife,
was offered work at Gurs,
turned it down,
drew more suspicion
that dissipated with time and failing of zealotry,

(unlike the departures from Gur to the east, that grew only stronger).

Bastille Day 1946,
I was in Caen,
to see my wife,
in the ground,
with our child,
hungry and irritable,
consoled by the grandmother,
wondering if she would mind
my departure to the capitol,
away from varieties of coldness,
to new opportunity for work and love.

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