Issue #11

At Rouen, 1916, in memory of my grandfather

Close to forty, ox-strong.
Pictured in white at the gymnasium,
palms clouded in chalk,
balanced one-handed on a pommel horse,
and here, suspended from still rings,
mouth set stubborn.

No faded photographs in khaki.
You said you would not kill
so they sent you to Rouen
unloading barges of coal.

When you were insubordinate
they tied you to a tree,
arms outstretched in the pouring rain.
Cut you down half-dead at dusk.

After, you rarely spoke of it.
Told only of green and tender buds,
the miraculous spring.

Jenny Donnison