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Meeting the British -- Paul Muldoon

Guest poem sent in by Mel Benson
(Poem #1153) Meeting the British
 We met the British in the dead of winter.
 The sky was lavender

 and the snow lavender-blue.
 I could hear, far below,

 the sound of two streams coming together
 (both were frozen over)

 and, no less strange,
 myself calling out in French

 across that forest-
 clearing. Neither General Jeffrey Amherst

 nor Colonel Henry Bouquet
 could stomach our willow-tobacco.

 As for the unusual
 scent when the Colonel shook out his hand-

 kerchief: C'est la lavande,
 une fleur mauve comme le ciel.

 They gave us six fishhooks
 and two blankets embroidered with smallpox.
-- Paul Muldoon
I find this poem slightly chilling, to be honest. It seems almost innocent
until the final word, which suddenly makes the entire poem incredibly
ominous. The half rhymes increase the growing sense of unease as the native
Americans in Canada meet the British colonisers and the reader becomes
gradually aware of all the consequences of this meeting. There is no real
point of first contact between the two sides shown in the poem - the native
American narrator is already able to describe the sky and snow as lavender,
which blurs the narrative voice somewhat [That would have been through their
earlier contact with the French, though. Still, I see Mel's point -martin].
Muldoon makes full use of hindsight and poetic device to create a poem sinister
yet political.



Biography of Muldoon:

Some Paul Muldoon pages:
  [broken link]

A very readable interview:
  [broken link],4273,4185192,00.html

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I've been redacting a poem:

Around, the carousel went around
The anxious travelers sought and found
Their bags, intact or gently battered,
But to my foolish eyes what mattered
Was a brave suitcase, red and small,
That circled round, not mine at all.

I knew that bag. It must be hers.
We hadnt met in seven years!
And as the metal plates squealed and clattered
My happy memories chimed and chattered.
An old man pulled it off the Claim.
My bags appeared: I did the same.

I hope you like it. 23jj

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