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December 2005, vol 1 no 3

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Graham High

 

Three Brothers

discordant bells
call the faithful to mass—
a ferry’s deep horn

A pink dawn in St. Malo. Rain in the air. I’m waiting for the ferry in a limbo of time, half way between holiday-let and home. There is an hour to kill. As I wander inside the city walls I look for old stones, a sense of history that will be agreeable. I decide to walk up the sharp incline from the City Gate to the Cathedral of St. Vincent, warming myself against the morning chill with a comfortable anticipation of browsing among images from the past that are secure and familiar.

As I approach the cathedral I gaze around me. Where the rose cobbles of Place Jean de Chatillon meet the grey setts of a small side street, I glance up to see the road sign. This obscure and narrow passageway is named after three brothers. At the base of a sandstone wall there are the bedraggled remains of a bouquet of white roses. It seems there is someone in the town for whom the French Resistance and the Volentaire FFL is still a poignant memory. I read the dedication on the polished brass plaque—three brothers whose war ended before the war itself.

in the Rue Des Freres Colteret
flowers
and the smell of drains

As I walk away I remember one of their names “Marcel, fusillé au Mont-Valerian en 1943”.

Returning through the city gate I glimpse the ferry gliding slowly into port. The harbour is a joyous chaos of masts and flags, sea air, openness, cranes and holiday-makers.

I tighten the drawstring
of my backpack—the toggle
cold as a bullet

 

 

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