Mad Poets and a Prose Woman

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)

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