Sans aucune doute,
it was cousin Jacques
the poet in the family.
He lived near Domrémy
where Jeanne first had her visions.
Jacques’ visions were of a different kind,
inspired by Verlaine, Rimbaud,
shellac and bad hashish.
He faithfully recorded them
in wild, frenzied images
until one day, in a narcotic haze,
he set fire to the kitchen curtains
and was put away for good.
Pepère penned verses too,
mostly of a bawdy kind,
which he recited to his pals
at the bistrot in the square,
brushing back his cap
as he filled their glasses
to the brim.
That was before cheap wine
pickled Pepère’s brain like sour beets
and he was canned by the chemin de fer
for dozing off at the crossing.
Now he rails against les Boches
(who were here in the Great War)
as he stacks wood in the rain.
The wood is for the antique stove
which Memère carefully tends,
bent over from her scoliosis
like the crippled plum-trees
reaching down from Church Hill.
Memère is pure prose,
not an ounce of poetry in her,
except for the pretty words
she feeds to the rabbits
as they nibble her crooked fingers
in their lopsided hutch.
(Originally published in French Literary Review)