Meeting the British (1987)
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We met the British in the dead of winter.
The sky was lavender
and the snow lavender-blue.
I could hear, far below,
the sound of two streams coming together
(both were frozen over)
and, no less strange,
myself calling out in French
across that forest-
clearing. Neither General Jeffrey Amherst
nor Colonel Henry Bouquet
could stomach our willow-tobacco.
As for the unusual
scent when the Colonel shook out his hand-
kerchief: C’est la lavande,
une fleur mauve comme le ciel.
They gave us six fishhooks
and two blankets embroidered with smallpox.
Poem © 2001 by Paul Muldoon. Source: Poems:1968-1998 by Paul Muldoon. By permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.