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  4. Frère Jacques, Frère Antoine by John Peck
Frère Jacques, Frère Antoine

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At a bus stop in Arles a fellow wounded in the Last War
winced into sunlight: Oui, they are beating the drums against
les juifs again, and the Moors. France is an old man!
An old pink thing lacking one eye, with his good one he gazed
through and past me to something which held his interest
and at which, after a silence not uncomfortable, he smiled.
Were I to tell this to acquaintances they would brand him senile.

Below a ridge in the Drôme, a goatherd huddled in mists.
His little carboniferous eyes glinted. He was not clean.
A kid bucked and sprang. I asked him how long a goat lives.
He stared, shrugged, and up the slope of wonder intoned,
Who knows?
            I asked how many in his herd, and discussed income.
I started to turn over figures in my alien mind, doing
sums and multiples on his eighty head, with calvings pyramiding
upward through geometric promise. He watched me.
He knew what I was thinking, and what I was going to propose.
Monsieur, he chuckled, NO one needs more than eighty goats!
And were I to relate this t0 the literati, they’d call it anecdote.

“Frere Jacques, Frere Antoine” by John Peck from M and Other Poems. © 1996 by John Peck. Published by TriQuarterly/Northwestern University Press. All rights reserved.
Source: M and other poems (TriQuarterly Books, 1996)
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Frère Jacques, Frère Antoine

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