My father joined up in 1939 when he was 14 and towards the end of the war became a driver. He chauffeured a British General into Paris in 1944 and at first enjoyed the sights and sounds of a free city.

But he was struck by the horror of the scene of a young girl being attacked alongside Notre Dame Cathedral for consorting with a German and this memory has stayed with him for almost 70 years.

My poems are inspired by this lest we forget who some of the real criminals were during the Occupation of France.

 

Martyrs of Notre Dame

In 44

My father drove

His General into Paris

He parked the car

And sat and smoked

Before he saw the malice

 

The girl was young

Her head was shaved

Her body bruised and battered

She had but slept

With a German boy

And now she was repaying

 

She stood in tears

And took the blows

No escape was coming

Her forehead scarred

And punches landed

So victory to the brave

 

Lost Love

I saw the face

But not the race

Of him I did adore

His smile his laugh

His heart his soul

I loved him to the core

 

He came at night

In secret tryst

To avoid the prying eyes

It was not safe

It could not last

But love it knows no bounds

 

He hung his grey

Above my bed

And naked we would love

I saw no nation

Caste nor creed

But love and love alone

 

It was too late

My love fled East

My heart was crushed and broken

I cried and mourned

I had lost all

But wrong I had not done

 

I loved and lost

Lost all my love

My country won its war

I lost my love

but kept my love

Inside my heart for ever

 

Reminiscence

It’s so easy to say

A war long gone

Is easier best forgot

But if we shy

Away from truths

We learn nothing from our past

 

Who won the war

When war was won

By sacrifice and loss

We won the war

But lost the peace

As anger overflowed

Hit out at us

The easy prey

We who did but love

 

Afraid to live

Alone at night

Disgusted by our lust

You look at me

And sneer and scream

Your hate as clear as day

 

But who are you

To act as judge

And jury at my guilt?

You sold him bread

You served his wine

And laughed and joked with him

Is that not worse

Than giving love

To profit by your acts?

You made him safe

You eased his mind

In fear he did not live

 

You made it simple

For him to act

As ruler and as friend

I gave him love

And peace and joy

At night instead of day

 

Was my grave fault

As bad as yours

So easy not to say

We’re both the same

In equal guilt

In service to the Reich

 

You on your feet

Me on my back

Our service so complete

I gave him love

You took his gold

Who turned the other cheek?

 

Pigeon

I would not sit there

Too long white friend

You never know what’s coming

A brick, a rock

A net, a bag

Your body is so welcome

 

To catch to take

Our home we make

An abattoir of feathers

Your taste so bland

But sweet as honey

Our taste buds so rewarded

 

Acorn, chestnut

A texture new

Our stomachs find most

Refreshing

The suede so dull,

The turnip’s such a treat

Our stomachs welcome them so freely

To taste buds deadened by defeat

Our hunger stilled

Another day

The damage done

Unknowing

Our feathered friends

Still sit and coo

Their fate they can’t see coming

 

Tondue

Aloof as their own Marianne

Oblivious to the jeers and gibes

Her head held high she sees them all.

The man who sold them his goods

The woman who cleaned his house

The child who ran his errands

The cook who delighted his palate

The abbe who took his confession

As if they had no remorse at all.

And she who just filled his bed

The mocking razor cuts.

Her locks fall down but no strength is lost

Blowing in the wind a wry smile blushes her lips

She sees the friend who broadcast the lies

and told her tales to all who’d listen

but shared her food and drank the wine

and laughed and teased and wished he’d wanted her.

She feels the punch and bends her knee.

The blade cuts through again and golden locks

cascade and fill the air, glistening.

Her blouse is ripped her eyes fill with tears

but she will not weep though her blood she tastes

nor give them satisfaction by apology

they slap her face and she curls her lip.

More hair floats down

ashamed to leave her saintly crown.

Her forehead tainted by Hitlers cross.

Her fair breasts exposed to mocking men

who always wanted her exquisite grace

To sneering women who always begrudged her

delicate bloom.

They punch and kick as she stands so proud

exhausting their hatred and their dangerous self

Guilt.

Till dragged away to stand and stare indifferent

A sister to the next and next.

Easy target and victim one by one

Pushed by fear or loss or need

To do what they should never do.

They condemn those who but for the grace of God

Their place they’d have happily grasped.

Too happy to cast the stone

Lest they should be exposed.

 

Brass bands in the Tuileries

The matrons sit

And needles click

Talking not discussing

At each other ears as hours pass by

And leave the square

With nothing

 

They sit and talk

And while away

The hours that Gods given

Of sunlight, warmth

And gentle breeze

The garden flowers blossom

 

The German band

Play long and loud

Trumpets gleam and glisten

The matrons sit

And talk and talk

To music they don’t listen

In our backyard

Perform they dare

To strut and boldly march

If we don’t hear

Or see them play

Paris is not given

Over to the conquerors

Who so gentile and polite

Take food

And goods

Our men and will

The fighting crushed and broken

 

Our women too

Sweet girls too young

To understand their folly

Walk arm in arm

And hand in hand

Bewitched by promises given

 

If they but knew

True loves not real

When conquered people rise again

Fate will make them pay

The war will be lost

With such a cost to bear

By those who gave their bodies

The matrons do declare

The girls lose too

More than their honour

All dignity and grace is squandered

And the band is quiet

The Garden grows cold

The music gone forever

 

Les Suede

It sits there like some maiden aunt

Untouched with such disdain

What do we do with a suede so bold

To boil, to roast?

To steam, to fry?

A hundred different choices

But to what avail

It tastes the same

A lingering yellow

Acrid mush

To satisfy and fill a space

A job it does too well

But then it rots

Our innards out.

Brings boils to flesh

and taints the face

The suede, so docile

So clean and bright

It’s mystery turns

Our insides out.

No wonder when

All food was there

We never gave suede

A thought nor care

It’s evil taste and smell and texture

Deceives us all when hunger craves

A gap to fill, a mouth to feed.

So crowned suede

Your rule will end

We never again

Your texture blend

With acorn chestnut or nettle broth

With pigeon, rat or turnip soft

The war has brought disgust disease

But worst of all

It brought the suede.

 

Deux souers

My husband embarked

A war to fight

for France and left me

alone at home.

Did not take too long

We lost the war and

my love was lost

my husband to the cage.

 

Alone and scared

He gave his hand

And gladly I did take.

He was my love

I needed him

He took away my sorrow.

 

I send him food

And go without

His hunger I cannot bear

All news is good

Despite the truth

His spirits high

I yearn for his return

 

Alone afraid

I’m at a loss

I need someone to care

To keep me safe

To hold me close

Does it matter what his race?

I see the girls

With Boche on arm

And feel but hate and anger

They give their bodies

To those who took him

To rot in stinking squalor.

 

I see their faces and feel their hate

But love does not come often.

He may be German

But he’s just a man

And comfort he has given.

 

When war is over

And him to return

Our love will be complete.

It’s been hard to lose his love

To live with hurt but honour

At least he will return to me

My husband and my lover.

 

In 39 my lover left

To fight the war for France

He lost his life on that first night

My heart was slashed in two

My love, my life just blown away

No body to recover

I needed love I needed hope

I gained both but at what cost

 

You love your German

I love my man

I never did surrender

You gave up all

For loves brief kiss

I hope it’s worth our anger.

 

I needed love

To take my pain away.

I found brief love

In grey uniform of hate.

I miss my man, but

True love lies dead

In fields so far away.

It gives no comfort

To my broken heart

But passes time each day.

 

Du Pain

Oh Lord I beg

and solemnly pray that

The loaf we buy

Should taste like bread

Not chalk.

I cannot stand

The looks and pain

That welcomes each sad loaf

That once was seen as king

As ruled by law.

To taste and satisfy

We took it all for granted

And enjoyed each day

It’s clean yeast taste

And texture rough and biting.

But now it’s full

Of God knows what

Of ingredients so

injurious.

But bread as we knew

In times long gone

By Christ we know it’s not.

 

Crucifixion

You scream at me

And call me whore

To even some sad score

But words cannot hurt

Your actions fail

I meet you with disdain.

You spit at me

To wash away

Your guilt and own dishonour

Expunging thoughts

Of your own acts

And what you should have done

You kick at me

And bruise my flesh

My blood may weep

And bones may break

But never hurt

As much as I hurt myself

You shear my hair

My lustrous locks

A sign of strength and power

I lose but neither

As strong I do become

My heart grows ever stronger

You scar my brow

With painted taunts

That is not me nor never was

My spirit is clear and so pure

I did what I did for love not country

Don’t judge my actions other.

Don’t dare to say

I cannot understand

I understand too well

Your guilt your crimes

Your rage your pain

You share with what I’ve done

To cover what you’ve dealt

To hide your guilt

Each in their own way

Did less than their best

In dark and evil days

 

Drancy

Torn from her mothers’ grip

Ripped from her family

Displayed to all

As Juden child

The yellow star

Shining bright

On darkest night

Sold to the highest bidder

In black of day

Into the night

That consumes our love

And burns

Till only ash remains

And memories

Of our betrayal

By those we thought

Were once our friends

And neighbours dear

Our happiness shared

A life for life

To give not to receive

A tainted aim

The Germans to appease.

All too easy

To wring their hands

Despair and guilt

Build as one

All too easy

To say it’s war

But a child of

Eight

Fights no

War.

How can you say

I did this for France

To deprive a race of life

And liberty and air

On some false premise

That convinced you that they care.

They did not want

The child to live

To destroy and wipe from earth

The child of God

The precious soul

You allowed them

To take.

A race to ashes

You allowed it to happen

No blame but the blame is yours.

 

Invisible

I hoped that once

We survived the war

That when our menfolk

Returning heroes came

That all we had won

And all would be well in

Our Brave New World.

I say survived as

No one wins a war

Least of all

We women of France

Who held our families together tight

And worked as never before to

Keep the home fires burning

In factory and in field

Ran business and livelihood

That once was mans’ preserve.

We fought and killed, yes died together

That France could again be free.

Yet all we have is

Our old position returned

Onto our backs legs splayed

Hands in suds and scrubbing floors

Creating homely meals

At least not with acorn or with cat

At that we can be pleased.

Know that the Germans

Did not see the women who fought

And paid their price for

Ignorance.

But once again

We’re not seen

Nor heard

At all.

Travail, famille, patrie.