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We met the British in the dead of winter.
The sky was lavender

and the snow lavender-blue.
I could hear, far below,

the sound of two streams coming together
(both were frozen over)

and, no less strange,
myself calling out in French

across that forest-
clearing. Neither General Jeffrey Amherst

nor Colonel Henry Bouquet
could stomach our willow-tobacco.

As for the unusual scent
when the Colonel shook out his hand-

kerchief: C’est la lavande,
une fleur mauve comme le ciel.

They gave us six fishhooks
and two blankets embroidered with smallpox.
A collection of very dense, layered poems, first published in 1987, rooted in the author's experience in the small but deep-rooted world of Northern Ireland's cultural community. The title piece is above; the last poems in the book are a sequence imagining the author in the position of figures such as W.H. Auden, Salvador Dali and Louis MacNeice; most of them are short and end somewhat abruptly (though few have quite as vicious as sting as the title piece). All very thought-provoking.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
yea_mon
Sep. 25th, 2013 02:48 pm (UTC)
After being inspired to research British use of smallpox against Ponticac's support base in the eponymous War, I suggest a more even, and thus less vicious modification to the poem quoted above:

We met the British in the dead of winter.
The sky was lavender

and the snow lavender-blue.
I could hear, far below,

the sound of two streams coming together
(both were frozen over)

and, no less strange,
myself calling out in French

across that forest-
clearing. Neither General Jeffrey Amherst

nor Colonel Henry Bouquet
could stomach our killing soldiers who had surrendered under a guarantee of free passage, not the murder of men, women and children by my warriors.

As for the unusual scent
when the Colonel shook out his hand-

kerchief: C’est la lavande,
une fleur mauve comme le ciel.

They gave us six fishhooks
and two blankets which may have been embroidered with smallpox, or then again may not.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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