Eleventh Transmission - "What Say the Trees of Compiègne?" by Sylvia Anne Telfer
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What Say the Trees of Compiègne?

Stiff-legged all the elevens goose-stepped in
on one date in late 1918, and in that lean dawn
the Armistice swooped down with wing-clipped
black eagles bulging in beak, hurtling them to railcar
deep in the forest of Compiègne, to the trees.
Facts, but facts are risked Pole stars, though also
signposts in war’s chaos, granting a sort of ease,
logic in loss, and so oak, beech
et al hailed convoy.
Had wildly waving branches sighed ‘Why?’
to their fallen crimson leaves, antsy we’d lost our way
in mayhem, in mistaking power for glory?
Had military of Allied and Germany stood over
document and pen, unaware trees were present
in the very paper, unseen witnesses?
As ink soaked in, flowed into signatures, had war’s atoms
floated free of shape: trenches, mud, barbed wire,
flesh and bones, guns, shells in supernova of cease-fire?
No! The same blood surging in signatories was yet
soaking war zones and fratricide stains forever.
Was it really a bird of amity, that dove
with a freshly plucked olive leaf winging in
or Pinocchio spraying lies like a hail of bullets?
1940, in the midst of the Second World War,
T.S. Eliot looked back at
years largely wasted, years of l’entre deux guerres
War’s a roll of the dice, another risky Pole Star.

Now, every year a two-minute hush at eleven
but will anyone muse if it really had been
an archduke’s slaying or our eternal blindness
that had triggered the First World War?
Only the pacific trees of Compiègne might know
for every Fall they mourn their bright red leaves
that scar the soil, lie like dying men below.

Sylvia Anne Telfer is a British international award-winning poet/short
storywriter frequently published in magazines, anthologies (e.g. Poetry
Review; Glasgow Herald; ‘Gutter 20’, Scottish PEN’s Declarations on
Freedom for Writers & Readers Anthology, etc.).

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Previously published in
Eleventh Transmission:
"Nesting Doll" in Spring by Rebecca Smolen.
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Published December 31, 2020

Featured Regular Submission

What Say the Trees of Compiègne?

by Sylvia Anne Telfer
(Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, UK)
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