Michael Gushue, p.1


About the dead they were never wrong,
The old British: How well we met them,
Like two aged streams walking dully along
With the winter’s sky a lavender human

Taking position in the lavender-blue snow:
I could hear an open window, or just the sound
Of someone eating buckskin far below,
On the street’s passionately frozen ground.

How reverently we came together,
Waiting for a miraculous birth, waiting
For the children, no less than strangers,
Who did not specially want to be always skating,

Or calling out in French: “C’est la lavande!”
I myself happened upon that green water—
Across the forest there was this pond.
It was at the wood’s edge last summer.

Even so, even now, we will never forget,
During the martyrdom of the torturer’s horse,
That Colonel Untidy Spot, with his sobriquet
Of Willow-tobacco, said it must run its course

Anyhow. He could not stomach our doggy life.
General Jeffrey Amherst had to go the way
Dogs usually go, in a clearing, and off in a tiff.
As for the unusual scratches along the quay,

When the Colonel shook out his hand, innocent
As Brueghel’s Icarus, and did everything to provoke
Disaster, the ploughman’s scented kerchief,
Embroidered with six delicate fishhooks,

Made them before its quite leisurely plash,
Before we heard the forsaken cry:
“Une mauve comme le ciel!” and before the cast
Sun shone tartan with smallpox, falling out of the sky.

Disappearing beneath two blankets, the boy’s white legs
Shone as they had on the ship—the expensive
Musee des Beaux Arts—as white as eggs.
And what trinket would they see fit to give,

Those old British, in their amazing azure
Coats, circling the frozen pond
To see somewhere something seen as failure
And calmly skate on.