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Image by Rico Bico


the madrigal, volume ii

Father Before He Was A Father, 1944

by tony abbott

And again the terror of quiet air as they marched

in the sunlight of an afternoon

to come upon an apple farm, its orchard rising

on a low hill, trees so full of green it could be anywhere

in eastern Pennsylvania when after a small time

some wire stretches tight and one two three are cut out

of their stance quickly and evenly

damaged beyond reviving. Noise and smoke.

His thigh alone is sliced with burning lead, he swoons,

falls on his back, cries out. The sky beyond the leaves

is that brilliant blue of June in Normandy.

I imagine this little house across the road,

there is a road, rutted with wagon tracks or tire prints.


Scramble to the front room windows, curtains brush

aside, soldiers emerge from the leafy mass.

A branch twitches seconds later. A red bird. Blossom smell.

The crackle of twigs under boots. The scene replays

a hundred thousand different ways. Sometimes the kitchen

clinks and gulps, hissing with breath then shunted

by a hard spray of bullets from the orchard.

Sometimes dust puffs up from the scuffle of their boots

along the road, sometimes someone whispers, always

there is a happy bowl of sun over their heads just before.

For the last two and a half decades, Tony Abbott has written many books for young readers aged 6 to 15. His latest book is the YA novel-in-verse, Junk Boy (2020). Tony has taught on the faculty of Lesley University’s MFA in Creative Writing, and is currently writing poetry for adults.

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