Love in the time of war

Mademoiselle from Armentières

For some months I’d lived in that house
       that had once been a farmhouse :
there were sheep in the meadow
       and from my study window
I could see the paddock
       where horses grazed all day long
They were beautiful thoroughbreds and
       I remember gazing at them admiringly
on early summer mornings
       as I left for work
the silky sheen of their skin in the light
       the sheer majesty of their demeanour

The owner of the house was an Australian
       a retired Captain who had fought
on the Western Front in the First World War
       He was in his eighties then but he loved
to talk of his exploits over in Flanders
       He’d fallen in love with a Belgian girl
and from her he’d learnt the French verses
       of Mademoiselle from Armentières
she with her wild hair and her soft blue eyes
       and as he spoke tears of sadness tears of joy
would well up and he’d turn away from me and
       for a moment he’d be back in those distant days

John Lyons