By Yvonne Blomer, Victoria, BC
Bicycles cast leggy branched shadows
down worn paths, along canals in Nord-
Pas-de Calais. Calais to Arques, taste of
café au lait in a small bar, my husband befriends
the men, drinks kirsch, champagne, orange liqueur;
we get off course, pitch our tent in St Nicholas.
Baby coot, house martin, cormorant perched on a stick.
I collect oak leaf, snail’s shell, pebbles, shards, tuck them,
honeycombed with story, into pannier and pockets.
Farther through villages, Abbey St Benoit to Vimy Ridge,
I pocket words: escarpment, oak trees, half-buried, lumpy fields,
preserved, cemetery, trenches, guided tour, 7004 wounded,
3598 dead, sacrifice, corps, enfilade, trenches freezing.
Heavy rain, thunder, unexploded munitions trail me, we
travel on, befriended by everyone. Our maple-clad fenders
make us heroes. Horses graze in a trenched field,
gentle rain, parlez en francais, something small planted inside me
hidden, secret, an acorn seeded, placed just so I can find it later.
Like Miller’s Vimy Oaks bear enduring boughs, I a son
grafted cell by cell, life’s memorial.