There is bracken there is the dark mulberry
there is the village where no villager survived
there are the hitlerians there are the foresters
feeding the partisans from frugal larders

there is the moon ablaze in every quarter
there is the moon "of tin and sage" and unseen pilots
explosive gifts into meadows of fog and crickets
there is the cuckoo and the tiny snake

there is the table set at every meal
for freedom whose chair stays vacant
the young men in their newfound passions
(Love along with them the ones they love)

Obscurity, code, the invisible existence
of a thrush in the reeds, the poet watching
as the blood washes off the revolver in the bucket
Redbreast, your song shakes loose a ruin of memories


A horrible day…Perhaps he knew, at that final instant?
The village had to be spared at any price…
How can you hear me? I speak from so far…
The flowering broom hid us in a blazing yellow mist…



This war will prolong itself beyond platonic armistices. The
implanting of political concepts will go on amid upheavals
and under cover of self-confident hypocrisy. Don't
smile. Thrust aside both skepticism and resignation and
prepare your soul to face an intramural confrontation with
demons as cold-blooded as microbes.


The poet in wartime, the Surrealistes' younger brother
turned realist: the village had to be spared at any price
all eyes on him in the woods crammed with masquisards ex-
pecting him to signal to fire and save their comrade
shook his head and watched Bernard's execution
knowing that the random shooting of a revolver
may be the simplest surreal act but never
changes the balance of power and that real acts are not
The poet, prone to exaggerate, thinks clearly under torture


knowing the end of the war
would mean no end to the microbes frozen in each soul
the young freedom fighters
in love with the Resistance
fed by a thrill for violence
familiar as his own jaw under the razor



Insoluble riverrain conscience echo of the future
I keep vigil for you here by the reeds of Elkhorn Slough
and the born mouth of the Salinas River going green
where the white egret fishes the fragile margins
Hermetic guide in resistance I've found you and lost you
several time sin my life. You were never just
the poet appalled and transfixed by war you were the maker
of terrible delicate decisions and that did not smudge
your sense of limits. You saw the squirrels crashing
from the tops of burning pines when the canister exploded
and worse and worse and you were in charge of every risk
the incendiary motives of others were in your charge
and the need for a courage wrapped in absolute tact
and you decided and lived like that and you
held poetry at your lips a piece of wild thyme ripped
from a burning meadow a mimosa twig
from still unravaged country. You kept your senses
about you like that and like this I keep vigil for you.




CHAR: Italicized phrases and some images from Leaves of Hypnos, the journal kept in 1942-1943 by the poet Rene Char while he was a commander in the French Resistance: and from some of Char's poems. I have drawn on both Jackson Mathews' and Cid Corman's translations of Char in integrating his words into my poem. Char joined the Surrealist movement late and broke with it prior to World War II. It was André Breton who said, "The simplest surrealist act consists of going down into the street, revolver in hand, and shooting at random."

Adrienne Rich