Jeannette de Beauvoir: All Their Blood
Image: Unsplash, downloaded (https://unsplash.com/photos/TdVGcGkb6C8) 7-2.2022.
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
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 jeannettedebeauvoir.com