Your sightless statue children
dance around the twisting frog
(Your children around the Nazi:
Will it be?
The railroad station burns.
You cannot be sure.).
They will always do so,
barring shellfire in the snow.
I see you in my mind
(it is here I hear you),
and in the photographs:
has turned to cold,
the yellow waters of your ancient name
but not the red that burns your very skies.
This is the red of men,
of broken sticks
shot from behind a rubbled wall.
It is for this red the bells are tolling:
Russian and invader,
the bells are tolling
and the toll rises:
As the days come on it rises,
and some of your children will dance no more.
men will praise you
and men will praise your enemy:
As he did with the attack,
so with the liberation:
A horse lies frozen in the street.
In war, the siege and liberation are one.
And your dancing, laughing children
will always hear the flames
above the laughter of the frog.
Up past Barstow
and behind barbed wire,
to the mud and frozen mud
(if they would talk to you,
if they would hear your question,
they would no doubt answer
Grandson, tired of the waiting,
and the stillness without toys,
resting on his mother’s father’s back
(good grandfather, you are tired of the waiting,
and the stillness without peace).
Young girls, I see your picture:
Eight or nine years old,
the future Yellow Evil
to be beaten by internment
up past Barstow
while your brothers
help reconquer Europe.
(This is a progression:
It is in a photo
on another page:
At this point is the schoolroom
and the pledge to a flag
you know you can’t hold.
Your separate faces:
Smiling on the left
uncertain in frightened sadness,
on the right.)
Rouen, 30 mai 1431
Joan is so terribly tired.
She’s been at war too long,
been hearing God-sent voices
guide her future even longer.
Her countrymen have turned away,
for now no longer needing her.
The English, less trusting of God,
want her removed from the scales.
The charge is heresy, so death by fire.
There will be no strangulation,
no relative mercy from the executioner.
She has no money for friends’ sachets.
Joan longs to weep upon the stake
like an exhausted lover mourning
the loss of innocence, but stands tall.
She won’t add self-treason to the charge.
Rising from the smoke of obscurity,
she will fall obscured by smoke.
Once entered by the fiery light of saints,
she will make her exit in the light of fire.
Lennart Lundh is a poet, short-fictionist, historian, and photographer. His work has appeared internationally since 1965. Len and his wife live in northern Illinois, where he manages text acquisitions for a university.