Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Tears of June, 1940


French Citizens watch Nazi Troops Occupy Paris in June, 1940 (Photo Courtesy of the US National Archives) Posted by Hello


The Tears of June, 1940


I

French citizens watched from the sidewalks
as Nazi troops occupied their homeland
in June, 1940.
In a famous snapshot,
a glimpse of a moment,
frozen in time,
a gentleman cries,
among the crowd
of unknown others.

II

I mimic his expression and immediately,
find that the feelings he must have felt flood
through my soul. He is well dressed,
his suit neat, his tie well-noosed.
He has arched his eyebrows, tears
from his eyes flow past the battle
that shows its conflict on his face.
He is overcome, but wants to buck it up
and be courageux before the conquerors.
The sadness is slipping, showing through,
tears flowing. What can he do?
It is right to sob when your homeland
is taken from you, either by force or by vote.

Who was this lovely man who so desperately
needed to be embraced? Did he survive the war?
Is his name known? Had he any idea of the travesties
that his France would suffer and in which She would
participate? Did he survive to march down
Les Champs Elysées in ‘44 or
did he succumb while under occupation?

III

To his left, a woman of neutral expression
extends her hands as if ready to applaud,
though her features do not suggest complicity.
Rather, could she be gesturing from disbelief,
with one hand reaching to point while the other hand
seeks a compatriote to whom to indicate a
transgression against her Paris?
Or perhaps she is applauding, angry
that it has come to this…."bring it on,
some Maginot Line after all, nom de Dieu!"
Or perhaps she has already had dreams of profit
from collaboration with the enemy occupation.
She is dressed in black, as in mourning.
Might it presage her own demise under the Nazi boot
or from the reprisals of the Free French
at La Libération?

IV

To his right stands another woman
appearing distressed, but not quite so much
as the sobbing man up front. Maybe she thinks
it won’t be so bad. They have seen this before
"C’est la vie! C’est la guerre! C’est chiant, ouais.
Mais"
….how long will they really stay before
Britain or America or some heroic good guys
come to drive them away. Or will she linger too long
for a drink in town at night and be violated by some lawlessness
that comes from men who feel out of control
and determined to control someone else?
Will she be raped and give birth to a wartime bastard child
and suffer the indignity of a shaven head after la Libération
or will she run herself through with a coat-hanger
risking her life to kill the evil within her?
Will she see four more years?

V

The man behind her looks on
head round like a melon and
ripe for a bullet-- just for effect.
Everyone must understand the rules
and must know that each of them, too, can be
eliminated with a single shot from a Gestapo pistol.
Point him out for sport, go ahead, grab him.
Put him on a ditch bank and make him kneel
begging for his life while the cold barrel touches the
nape of his neck and points upward. See his head
as it jerks back and his body slumps into the ditch
to be joined by countless more
"Resistance Examples".

VI

I could have been standing on that sidewalk
or in a grocery store, or pharmacie
or sitting in my easy-chair talking on the phone
when the recognition of what was happening
around my own land became clear. It feels like rape
a plundering of my homeland by occupational
politicos whose values differ from mine.
They claim a right by majority
to mandate the dismantling of our social programs
to strip the benefits that sustain the old and frail.
They want all to worship their gods
and submit to their stripped soul searching.
The President is only elected for four more years,
but will we have a country when he is done?
We have not cornered the market on stability
and death knocks on many a door in the period of four years.

VII

I cry with you. I cry to see the world change,
to move in a direction that is opposite to
my desired path. I weep to find peace within
when peace is only offered if you buck up and
follow their deities and demagogues. I sob
for the world of nations that will have to
endure our madness for four more years
and for the children who will be conditioned
to see fundamentalists and idiots as heroes.
I would like to reach out and embrace you
because you could comfort me
as much as I could comfort you.
Know, at least, that we are not complicit.

Copyright 5 November 2004 by Ron Hudson.


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