My daughter’s polka-dot whales pajama pants,
Small polka dots, big polka dots
Or pink ones with stripes
Talk to me,
While She won’t talk to me
Won’t say why she did it
Instead she calls her friend
A nice guy.
I can’t help feeling angry
She was born not far from here
Same hospital, different room
She gathered mom and dad once more
But not for the same reason
She wanted to celebrate something else
At twelve, she took 10 Advils
Trying to kill the anxiety
And herself in one fell swoop.
She could have been dead
She won’t talk about it
Because it’s taboo
She’s afraid to talk
But not afraid to do
She wanted to die
But she’s eating with appetite
She said I love you to her friend
But not to me or her dad
She texted “I love you but
I must say Good Bye”
She didn’t say that to me
But to her friend
Who is gay
Maybe we’re too sad, us parents.
I am angry.
Four hours to wait in this room with her on a bed
Me and her dad had not been together for so long
In a long time
Maybe 5 years
Maybe that’s what she wanted
That’s a start.
Being here in the ER
Reminds me of Bukowsky’s poems
Perhaps the desperation
The waiting for something that doesn’t come
Although he writes about drinking
Or cats, or women or prostitutes
None of this here
But the lonely soul
Facing its own predicament
I see him in his room, alone
He writes as if he always was
On the brink
Of committing suicide
I think he lived to be pretty old
After all that despairing
And all that drinking.
This reminds me of when I lived in Paris
In my little studio
Twice her age and lonely
I found a book of his poems
On the Avenue de l’Opéra
In the bookstore called Brentano’s
Feeling as lonely in Paris as he was in Los Angeles
And then again I think of all my
Past life in France
So lucky, so happy sometimes
Well-loved in a wondrous country
Oh the places I’ve seen
The places I’ve been!
8:00 am at the E.R.
I know because I am the woman
In the gray sweater sitting in the doorway
Of the cold room
Next to the bathroom and the clock.
I’m the woman whose daughter
Attempted to commit suicide
By taking 10 Advil pills yesterday
I am the woman who had that child
Late in years.
But there may be many other reasons
Why we are here today.
I am the woman who came from France
And taught French
And got married and had a child,
And then had another child.
I am the woman who is tough
But starts tearing up when she realizes
She has no help here
No family, brothers or aunts
Or cousins or nieces or parents
Or many friends who would help her.
I am the woman whose child
Doesn’t even seem to love her
I am the woman who has
a mother and father in France
a lover in Seattle
and a daughter in California.
I am the woman in the gray sweater
Who writes poems
In the waiting room of the E.R.
R.I.P. Victor Hugotte, Mort pour la France
A discovery the other day took me to a time and place outside of my little blogosphere. During an internet search for “Victor Hugotte” I found that the name I had made up for this website and blog was the name of a real person who died during the Second World War.
I was led to a website listing names of soldiers, a compilation of “memorial monuments, French and foreign soldiers and civilians killed or missing through acts of war, dead in deportation and who “died for France.””
I searched for his date of birth, of death, maybe a photo. It had to be a man. Unfortunately, unlike some soldiers on the list, most of the data boxes were empty, except for “Mort pour la France.”
Other boxes entitled Judgment, Transcription, Burial and “Autres informations” were empty as well.
I did learn however, that Victor Hugotte had been a Sous-lieutenant (second lieutenant) in the 136th R.I.F. Infantry Regiment of Fortification (Régiment d’Infanterie de Forteresse).
I looked for a uniform, to have an idea of what he might have looked like, since the first photo I found was that of a “fantassin” or infantryman, but Victor was of a higher rank. And this what it might have looked like:
The 136th Regimental’s motto was: I DO NOT RETREAT OR WAVER
The regiment itself had been mobilized on August 22nd 1939 in Mouzon, close to the Belgian border, and was installed on the Ligne Maginot.
To refresh my memory, I did a little foray into history, confirming that the Ligne Maginot was a line of concrete fortifications, obstacles and weapon installations constructed on the French side of its borders. It was devised to defend the borders from the expected German invasions. Here is what Victor’s regiment might have looked like (this is the 166th while Victor Hugotte was in the 136th)
1940- 166e Régiment d’Infanterie de Forteresse
When things did not happen according to plan, Victor’s 136th regiment moved twice locally to end up in Crepey (54) where it was reorganized in a lighter way. Finally the armistice surprised him on June 25, 1940.
These were the words used in the Memorial website. I had to wonder why and how Victor died for France if there was an agreement with Germany to cease fire.
Another website reminded me that Marshal Philippe Pétain, hero of World War I, had signed an armistice with Nazi Germany, and led the collaborating Vichy government while the Germans occupied the country’s northern portion.
What I understood was that during the occupation, some solders were made prisoners of war:
“Although no precise estimates exist, the number of French soldiers captured during the Battle of France between May and June 1940 is generally recognized around 1.8 million, equivalent to around 10 percent of the total adult male population of France at the time. After a brief period of captivity in France, most of the prisoners were deported to Germany. In Germany, prisoners were incarcerated in Stalag or Oflag prison camps, according to rank, but the vast majority were soon transferred to work details (Kommandos) working in German agriculture or industry. Colonial prisoners, however, remained in camps in France with poor living conditions as a result of Nazi racial ideologies.” (see sources below)
French prisoners of war being marched away from the front, May 1940
Later that day, I couldn’t stop thinking about this soldier whose name I had unwillingly borrowed, and started the research again. The coincidence was too strange.
This time, I noticed that underneath my Victor Hugotte was another line which read: Victor Adolphe Hugotte. By clicking on that second line I found all the information I had been missing
What an unfortunate middle name, how ironic. Was Adolphe such a popular name at the time, and how did Victor feel about sharing a name with the Führer? Had his parents intended the connection with Victor Hugo? Did Victor have literary aspirations at all? And how would he feel about my adopting his name, albeit completely innocently, for my blog?
His birthdate was 13/06/1905 and he died on 14/06/1940, the day after his 35th birthday.
The website was also posting a photo of the memorial monument where he was buried with his companions in a place called Azannes-et-Soumazannes.
Dear Victor Hugotte,
It’s mostly cloudy in Mouzon today, 45F
Close to the Belgian border,
Where you were drafted
I don’t know what you looked like
I don’t know who borrowed whose name
You, me, or Victor Hugo
But here is a thought for you
Who had to die so young for France.
I’ll try not to retreat or waver, in your honor.
RIP Victor Hugotte
Petain, appel du 2 Juin 1940:
My Cat like a Chopin Nocturne
I was sitting in my armchair drinking my morning coffee watching my cat watching the leaves now red and gold through the window playing with the October sun, and I thought I would play some music: I felt like a Chopin Nocturne.
And then it occurred to me, like when you realize that the glasses you’re looking for are already on your nose, that I had it right there, the Chopin Nocturne.
The graceful lines of my cat, pensive and melancholy, looking out the window, the grace, harmony, poetry.
The same swooning when I see him fulfilling his purpose, defining the lines of beauty, grace, harmony, poetry.
He came to me as if he knew exactly what I was talking about. That’s how we communicate.
And I told him about his black and white hair, like a piano keyboard (haha), I tugged on his ears and reminded him about his galloping up and down the stairs at times, in crazy impromptu scherzos.
He was purring and agreeing to it all, and buried his head in the crook of my elbow. And so I asked him about God, if he knew all about it. I thought it was a question I could sneak in that moment of unguarded pillow talk.
But he knew better than to answer. Time to go, he said. And jumped off my lap to lick his paws on the rug.
Fair enough. I knew the answer anyway. My cat and Chopin and God.