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Poem by Robert William Service
(The Wounded Canadian Speaks) My leg? It's off at the knee. Do I miss it? Well, some. You see I've had it since I was born; And lately a devilish corn. (I rather chuckle with glee To think how I've fooled that corn.) But I'll hobble around all right. It isn't that, it's my face. Oh I know I'm a hideous sight, Hardly a thing in place; Sort of gargoyle, you'd say. Nurse won't give me a glass, But I see the folks as they pass Shudder and turn away; Turn away in distress... Mirror enough, I guess. I'm gay! You bet I AM gay; But I wasn't a while ago. If you'd seen me even to-day, The darndest picture of woe, With this Caliban mug of mine, So ravaged and raw and red, Turned to the wall -- in fine, Wishing that I was dead. . . . What has happened since then, Since I lay with my face to the wall, The most despairing of men? Listen! I'll tell you all. That poilu across the way, With the shrapnel wound in his head, Has a sister: she came to-day To sit awhile by his bed. All morning I heard him fret: "Oh, when will she come, Fleurette?" Then sudden, a joyous cry; The tripping of little feet, The softest, tenderest sigh, A voice so fresh and sweet; Clear as a silver bell, Fresh as the morning dews: "C'est toi, c'est toi, Marcel! Mon frère, comme je suis heureuse!" So over the blanket's rim I raised my terrible face, And I saw -- how I envied him! A girl of such delicate grace; Sixteen, all laughter and love; As gay as a linnet, and yet As tenderly sweet as a dove; Half woman, half child -- Fleurette. Then I turned to the wall again. (I was awfully blue, you see), And I thought with a bitter pain: "Such visions are not for me." So there like a log I lay, All hidden, I thought, from view, When sudden I heard her say: "Ah! Who is that malheureux?" Then briefly I heard him tell (However he came to know) How I'd smothered a bomb that fell Into the trench, and so None of my men were hit, Though it busted me up a bit. Well, I didn't quiver an eye, And he chattered and there she sat; And I fancied I heard her sigh -- But I wouldn't just swear to that. And maybe she wasn't so bright, Though she talked in a merry strain, And I closed my eyes ever so tight, Yet I saw her ever so plain: Her dear little tilted nose, Her delicate, dimpled chin, Her mouth like a budding rose, And the glistening pearls within; Her eyes like the violet: Such a rare little queen -- Fleurette. And at last when she rose to go, The light was a little dim, And I ventured to peep, and so I saw her, graceful and slim, And she kissed him and kissed him, and oh How I envied and envied him! So when she was gone I said In rather a dreary voice To him of the opposite bed: "Ah, friend, how you must rejoice! But me, I'm a thing of dread. For me nevermore the bliss, The thrill of a woman's kiss." Then I stopped, for lo! she was there, And a great light shone in her eyes; And me! I could only stare, I was taken so by surprise, When gently she bent her head: "May I kiss you, Sergeant?" she said. Then she kissed my burning lips With her mouth like a scented flower, And I thrilled to the finger-tips, And I hadn't even the power To say: "God bless you, dear!" And I felt such a precious tear Fall on my withered cheek, And darn it! I couldn't speak. And so she went sadly away, And I knew that my eyes were wet. Ah, not to my dying day Will I forget, forget! Can you wonder now I am gay? God bless her, that little Fleurette!
Robert William Service
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