Le Centenaire

Walking the Rhône I thought
I knew, the swivel of swans
surprised me – but he
swayed me, they’re always here
Je suis centenaire, he smiled
100 years with every slow step
his eyes flashing quick as fate
C’est ça le secret, he smiled,
reiterating, knowing me
to be a modest listener:

     I was born on the Rhône

     I escaped three times from the Germans

     I married the girl I adored

     I never told her how I got the food

     I slept with the rich farmer’s daughter

     I became a gendarme after the war

     I always come back to the Rhône

(A month later I saw him on a street corner, slowed
to let him pass, but he motioned me on, his face
stern, his cane beating the air.)