France for Boys

Frederick Seidel

There wasn’t anyone to thank.
Two hours from Paris in a field.
The car was burning in a ditch.
Of course, the young star of the movie can’t be killed off so early.

He felt he had to get off the train when he saw the station sign Charleville
Without knowing why – but something had happened there.
Rimbaud explodes with too good,
With the terrible happiness of light.

He was driving fast through
The smell of France, the French trees
Lining the roads with metronomic to stroboscopic
Bringing-on-a-stroke whacks of joyous light.

They were drunk. It had rained.
Going around the Place de la Concorde too fast
On slippery cobbles, and it happened.
Three spill off the motorcycle, two into a paddy wagon.

Eeehaw, Eeehaw, a midsummer night’s dream
Down the boulevard along the Seine.
The most beautiful American girl in France
Has just stepped out of a swimming pool, even in a police van.

Eeehaw, Eeehaw,
In a black maria taking them to a hospital.
The beautiful apparently thought the donkey she had just met was dying,
And on the spot fell in love.

The wife of the American ambassador to France
Took her son and his roommate to Sunday lunch
At a three-star restaurant some distance from Paris.
The chauffeur drove for hours to get to the sacred place.

The roommate proudly wore the new white linen suit
His grandmother had given him for his trip to France.
At the restaurant after they ordered he felt sick and left for the loo.
He dropped his trousers and squatted on his heels over the hole.

No one heard him shouting because the loo was in a separate building.
His pal finally came to find him after half an hour.
Since it was Sunday no one could buy him new pants in a store.
No one among the restaurant staff had an extra pair.

White linen summer clouds squatted over Diên Biên Phú.
It must be 1954 because you soil yourself and give up hope but don’t.
The boys are reading L’Etranger as summer reading.
My country, ’tis of thee, Albert Camus!

The host sprinted upstairs to grab his fellow existentialist –
To drag him downstairs to the embassy’s July 4th garden party.
The ambassador’s son died horribly the following year
In a ski lodge fire.