Neal Dachstadter

WHERE WERE YOU IN ‘62?

Les Politiciens[1]
“Where were you in ‘62?”
The school alumni deftly asked.
“Reunion… time to pour a brew,
And pop a cork, or drain a cask.

Allow the troubled world to cease.
We’ll dress so fine. To this we’ll feast:
Our time in life when all was new.
Our sky was blue in ‘62.”

La Legion[2]
“Your sky was blue, the desert brown.
Your stock went up, a flag came down.
Diplomas cost diplomacy;
You rendered lost une Algérie[3].”

The night bright red, le sang: rouge noir[4]
When to the forts men bade bonsoir[5],
While Charles de Gaulle returned a call
To Jean Paul Sarte, who played his part.

Fey[6] southward under burning skies
Les Anciens[7] ended final ties
And glared a motto toward the sand:
“The Legion is our Fatherland.”

They looked upon the desert towns
Which they (defending, long extending
France’s reach to southern beach)
Once called their own. Tous parfait? Non,[8]

But not so sad as what has bad-
ly long ensued, for 50 crude-
ly squalored years, replete with fears,
And squandered tears, and grinding gears,

And broken glass, and beaten lass
(lo now becloaked beneath her yoke).
Bonne Algérie[9], a sundered crass
Might trade that freedom. Think me joke?

Were men less free, quand colonies[10]
Bespeckled lands and southern sea?
Were women slaves? Had fled the Jew?
En Algérie, dans Soixante-deux?[11]

Sonne questions[12] hover in our day.
Bonne Algérie[13], so lovely? Nay,
No longer beau sans[14] France’s flag,
Lo, stronger? No, askance, does lag.

L’Algérie[15]
“Forsake your pall, O Charles de Gaulle.
Sarte (not Camus) wake your ass to
My cry beneath a darkling sky:
‘Bon Hommes[16] we knew, till ‘62.

One hundred and a third, they stayed,
Until the gentry – merde[17] you played
That with no statecraft, honor flayed,
Slayed: low, beneath my dust now laid,

Where men made walls and towers built
(now blasted, fades a tarnished gilt),
By foe, étranger[18] blood was spilt.
Though Legion bayonets, sans[19] silt,

Were sunk to haft. These proud remain
Unlike your daft legerdemain.
Pardonez-vous[20] while we explain:
Bons Hommes[21] were few, en Soixante-deux[22].

I heard them tous[23] chant in my gloam,
On golden sand, and crusty loam,
And on the strand, by ocean foam:
‘The Legion is our land, and home.’”

Author’s Note: I wrote this poem in early March 2011 and published it on Cervens.net, a French Foreign Legion Forum. The FFL is my military hobby.