Clear-seeing

By Edgar Bowers 1924–2000 Edgar Bowers

Bavaria, 1946

The clairvoyante, a major general’s wife,
The secretaries’ sibyl, read the letters
They brought her from their GI soldier-lovers,
Interpreting the script. I went along
One afternoon with writing of my own.
“This writing is by one you cannot trust,”
She frowned, and all the secretaries smiled.
But when she took my palm, she read the brown
Fingers for too much smoking and the lines
Of time and fate for a long and famous life.
“Soon you will take a trip by land and sea.”
Across the hall, her husband, half asleep
And propped high on his pillows, when I bent
To shake his hand, seeing my uniform,
Called in a whisper as if he still dreamed,
“I told him not to go to Russia!” Then,
Remembering the woman at my jeep,
Among the smoking tanks and half-tracks, crying,
“My husband fell in Russia!” I thought I saw
For him the summer uniforms in snow,
Partisans, savage reprisals, day-long strafing,
Long lines of prisoners never to return,
Comrades armless, legless, and blind. But he,
Clutching my sleeve to pull me closer, whispered,
“It was the SS did it, not my men.
The week before the armistice, they took
Three just-conscripted boys who were afraid
And hanged them, German children, the sky green
Above the uniforms too big for them,
As we saw when we found and cut them down.
It was then that I despaired to live or die.”
The secretaries waiting with their coats on,
She thanked me for my visit, and, “Next week
Bring cigarettes and coffee, please,” she said.

Edgar Bowers, “Clear-seeing” from Collected Poems (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997). Copyright © 1997 by Edgar Bowers. Reprinted with the permission of the Estate of Edgar Bowers.

Source: Collected Poems (1997)

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Poet Edgar Bowers 1924–2000

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects War & Conflict, History & Politics, Social Commentaries

Holidays Memorial Day

Poetic Terms Blank Verse

 Edgar  Bowers

Biography

Edgar Bowers was born in 1924 in Rome, Georgia and earned his BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Drafted into the army during World War II, he was active in the de-Nazification of Germany, and was stationed for a year at Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s retreat in the Alps. After the war, he earned his MA and PhD from Stanford, where he studied closely with Yvor Winters. Both his experiences of Europe during the war . . .

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SUBJECT War & Conflict, History & Politics, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Blank Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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