Mark Jarman

A Back Road Near Calais, 1961
July 21, 2011 Jarman Mark

A Back Road Near Calais, 1961


A Back Road Near Calais, 1961

The phonograph, did it have a fleur-de-lys funnel?

And the dancers, at least two couples, right?

The men with ripe bellies and suspenders,

The women Piaf-tiny or robust in gingham.


We slowed into the memory, they skipped

Off the macadam, one of them – a man? –

Scooping up the record player. Or was it still

Turning its disc and playing as we rolled by?


Didn’t they flash the V for Victory we’d seen

Everywhere we drove that summer in France,

Both for our GB plate  and the last war

And the Ecosse plate and the Old Alliance?


Or did they ignore us, continuing to dance?

Our parents, too old to remember now, can’t say

But my sister and I, children then still ask.

Why did we pretend we weren’t Americans?

Mark Jarman’s most recent collection of poetry is The Heronry (Sarabande Books, 2017).  He is Centennial Professor of English at Vanderbilt University.