We sat in the dimmed kitchen light,
everyone else already gone au lit
like players slowly sauntering off stage.
From under the table with its cracked,
yellowed vinyl, punctuated by nondescript
flowers, the man I considered mon père
would pull out his gallon jug of wine
pouring yet another wistful, jelly jar full
to wet his whistle before he sang.
First, La Marseillaise would rasp out
à mi-voix from his throat, then all
the similar hymns of guts and glory,
each with their own beaux gestes:
standards I can still almost hear–fluttering
standards pointing in my mind’s eye
toward some champs élysees where heroic
warriors squatted and sang, swaying their goblets
sideways in sync to every clink of crystal,
the tremolo of their dying voices captured
in that one, final, patriotic pitch, which always
ended in a hushed drumroll of dreams.
Tim Mayo’s second volume of poems, Thesaurus of Separation (Phoenicia Publishing 2016) was a finalist for the 2017 Montaigne Medal and a finalist for the 2017 Eric Hoffer Book Award. His most recent collection, Notes to the Mental Hospital Timekeeper, was published by Kelsay Books in November of 2019.