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A DEATH IN GASCONY

We flew late, on the year’s busiest Friday,

to Toulouse. As we drove in the hire car

through Haut-Garonne and Midi-Pyrénées

into Gascony, its rolling hills green

with August’s growth, the sun was setting –

the burgeoning fields of sunflowers paused, bats

swooped before the car like twilit angels.

 

As we topped each rise we could see the glow

fade in the west above the Bay of Biscay.

We arrived in darkness at the pension.

The patronne gave us supper on the terrace –

her bread, pâté, tomatoes, a local cheese.

A cascade of shooting stars fell in the north.

We toasted ill winds and silver linings.

 

We woke to an ass braying, a cock crowing,

and a bell tolling for early Mass.

We drove to the city of Auch, Coeur

de Gascogne. The crematorium was new

– floor to ceiling windows, light wood benches.

The deceased, it was said, had chosen Holst’s

‘Venus: The Bringer of Peace’ on his death bed.

 

The wake was in a bar on the square

in a small, erstwhile market town in sight

of the Pyrenees, its highest peaks snow capped.

The mourners were mostly English, settled

in renovated, abandoned farm houses.

Each of us had some ill fitting jigsaw piece

of his life: an exile, a fugitive?

 

There had been a week of summer events

in the square with its defiant poilu.

The festivities ended the next day

with a dance in the commune’s echoing

La Salle Des Fêtes. An accordion played.

Old couples with dyed hair, some singing softly,

fox trotted slowly to ‘La Vie En Rose’.

 

 

 

 

© Copyright David Selzer
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2 Responses
  • Ashen Venema
    June 29, 2018

    As always, your poems are evocative of places and poignant observations of events.

  • Mary Clark
    July 15, 2018

    Ha! I was thinking of / hearing ‘La Vie en Rose’, and – there it was! You must have evoked it in the rhythm of the poem. Wonderful.

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