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Jeannette de Beauvoir: All Their Blood

Image: Unsplash, downloaded ( 7-2.2022.

48 Hours

My aunt died in a cellar under the old City Hall.

I don’t know how she’d come to be there

or what exactly they did to her: there were rumors

but by the time I was born they were almost

all dead, the ones who could have told me. She

had run a secret printing press, so perhaps

I have words in my blood, after all—a dubious

gift without her strength and fortitude,

without her faith that it all matters, every small

act, every meager contribution counts

toward something bigger than a dream: faith

that even a country can shake off evil

and reclaim life. Faith that stolen time, stolen

possibilities, stolen lives always matter.

48 hours, they said: that’s as long as you have to

hold out. 48 hours, so the others can escape.

So the others can live. (It’s a foregone conclusion

that you will die.) And she did. Her body

dumped in the night in front of the opera house

in the square where their soldiers strutted

to make a point. How many others did they take

down those stairs, into those rooms?

Radio operators, saboteurs, girls who rode bicycles

in light summer dresses, messages tucked

into their underwear. All these people, all their

lives, all their dreams. All their blood.

I live in the shadow of a woman I never knew,

a woman not allowed to live past twenty.

A woman who knew the only number that mattered

was 48.

We Live By The Currents

There was another suicide yesterday

on the beach, by the sea: the dunes behind him, the ocean in front,

on the second day of April.

I couldn’t help but wonder,

if he’d managed to survive

the hard winter—

couldn’t he see the promise of spring?

Out here, they choose to give themselves

to the ocean, the voluntary dead,

jumping off the pier, swinging over the harbor,

swimming out to sea, bodies

kissed by the waves.

Their last thoughts

of tides and currents and fish,

or perhaps of calm nothingness,

of grayness, of peace that it’s finally over:

Whatever it was caused them such pain.

That’s the way I imagine it;

but I am also a child of the sea,

I know how to feel safe in its darkness.

I know, too, what they forget,

the suicides of April,

the sea is not your accomplice:

it can turn on you at any time

and rip you to shreds.

The fishermen know, and they aren’t

among those who choose to die in the spring;

death is too real to them, too close.

Too many times boats leave this harbor, gay

bright paint chipping off their bows

and the call of the fish out there pulling them toward the horizon

until they try too hard, or for too long,

or maybe it’s not their fault:

She takes even those who don’t wish to be taken

even those who don’t make a mistake—

pounding them onto the shoreline,

bits of bright flotsam and ghost nets,

and away down the beach, the one choosing to stop,

the one choosing to stop loving the sea that he surfs

and loving it instead as he dies,

that one, even, may pause before he acts

to see the terrible strength of the one

to which he gives himself,

pause and sigh if he looks around him,

if he wonders in the last moments

which of them it is that has won.

About the Author: Jeannette de Beauvoir is a novelist and poet who lives and works in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Her poetry has appeared in The Adirondack Review, the Blue Collar Review, SaucyVox, Wild Violet, Here, and the New England Review, and she is the 2020 recipient of the Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Contest national award judged by Marge Piercy. More at


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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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