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The Request by Frederick Pollack

Disabused, wary – a wall

around a picturesque dungeon

where sweetness shakes its chains ... I must be

a Frenchwoman, she thinks. Proves it,

refusing to show surprise;

fills her string bag

with chalky bread.

In the square, a fine rain falls.

That shadow, leering from the steps of the church,

is the priest, corrupt before,

now more so. The cough

from somewhere behind her means

hunger, a studied apathy,

a mine nearby; a warning?

It must be the War – but which?

She tries to gauge her fear

as the grey uniforms approach,

their details obscure.

The men are dragging some kind

of pallet. Rags and blood.

Salute from the offizier,

no demand for papers ...

“May I ask you, Madame,

to see to our comrade?”

“But I am not a nurse.”

“What is your name, Madame?”

“Marie.” “Well, Marie,

I do not ask you to nurse him,

only to watch him die.”

Frederick is the author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS, both published by Story Line Press. He has other poems in print and online journals and is an adjunct professor creative writing at George Washington University.

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