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Robert Service

(The Wounded Canadian Speaks)

My leg? It's off at the knee.
Do I miss it? Well, some. You see
    I've had it since I was born;
    And lately a devilish corn.
(I rather chuckle with glee
    To think how I've fooled that corn.)

But I'll hobble around all right.
    It isn't that, it's my face.
Oh I know I'm a hideous sight,
    Hardly a thing in place;
Sort of gargoyle, you'd say.
    Nurse won't give me a glass,
    But I see the folks as they pass
Shudder and turn away;
    Turn away in distress . . .
    Mirror enough, I guess.

I'm gay! You bet I AM gay;
    But I wasn't a while ago.
If you'd seen me even to-day,
    The darndest picture of woe,
With this Caliban mug of mine,
    So ravaged and raw and red,
Turned to the wall -- in fine,
    Wishing that I was dead. . . .
What has happened since then,
    Since I lay with my face to the wall,
The most despairing of men?
    Listen! I'll tell you all.

That poilu across the way,
    With the shrapnel wound in his head,
Has a sister: she came to-day
    To sit awhile by his bed.
All morning I heard him fret:
    "Oh, when will she come, Fleurette?"

Then sudden, a joyous cry;
    The tripping of little feet,
The softest, tenderest sigh,
    A voice so fresh and sweet;
Clear as a silver bell,
    Fresh as the morning dews:
"C'est toi, c'est toi, Marcel!
    Mon frère, comme je suis heureuse!"

So over the blanket's rim
    I raised my terrible face,
And I saw -- how I envied him!
    A girl of such delicate grace;
Sixteen, all laughter and love;
    As gay as a linnet, and yet
As tenderly sweet as a dove;
    Half woman, half child -- Fleurette.

Then I turned to the wall again.
    (I was awfully blue, you see),
And I thought with a bitter pain:
    "Such visions are not for me."
So there like a log I lay,
    All hidden, I thought, from view,
When sudden I heard her say:
    "Ah! Who is that malheureux?"
Then briefly I heard him tell
    (However he came to know)
How I'd smothered a bomb that fell
    Into the trench, and so
None of my men were hit,
    Though it busted me up a bit.

Well, I didn't quiver an eye,
    And he chattered and there she sat;
And I fancied I heard her sigh --
    But I wouldn't just swear to that.
And maybe she wasn't so bright,
    Though she talked in a merry strain,
And I closed my eyes ever so tight,
    Yet I saw her ever so plain:
Her dear little tilted nose,
    Her delicate, dimpled chin,
Her mouth like a budding rose,
    And the glistening pearls within;
Her eyes like the violet:
Such a rare little queen -- Fleurette.

And at last when she rose to go,
    The light was a little dim,
And I ventured to peep, and so
    I saw her, graceful and slim,
And she kissed him and kissed him, and oh
    How I envied and envied him!

So when she was gone I said
    In rather a dreary voice
To him of the opposite bed:
    "Ah, friend, how you must rejoice!
But me, I'm a thing of dread.
    For me nevermore the bliss,
    The thrill of a woman's kiss."

Then I stopped, for lo! she was there,
    And a great light shone in her eyes;
And me! I could only stare,
    I was taken so by surprise,
When gently she bent her head:
    "May I kiss you, Sergeant?" she said.

Then she kissed my burning lips
    With her mouth like a scented flower,
And I thrilled to the finger-tips,
    And I hadn't even the power
To say: "God bless you, dear!"
And I felt such a precious tear
    Fall on my withered cheek,
    And darn it! I couldn't speak.

And so she went sadly away,
    And I knew that my eyes were wet.
Ah, not to my dying day
    Will I forget, forget!
Can you wonder now I am gay?
    God bless her, that little Fleurette!

Added: 29 Jun 2002 | Last Read: 14 Dec 2018 1:51 PM | Viewed: 4303 times

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URL: http://plagiarist.com/poetry/5191/ | Viewed on 14 December 2018.
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