Henriette Charasson: To Cam

A poem a day
International WWI Poetry Month

To Cam

Henriette Charasson (France, 1916)

‘To Cam’

Only for rare, short moments do I ever understand, at last, my darling brother, that you are dead.
For me, you left months ago and I simply think you have been away too long,
And I live my life as if I were sure they are holding you there in their gloomy forests,
But I believe you will come back on the day when the bugles sound our victory.
And I wait for you, and wear no black veils, and when friends’ eyes fill with pity, I am all stubborn praise.
And they wonder that I can be so brave — but where is the bravery, when I still believe that you will come back to me?
When I believe that I shall see you walk back in one day through this old porch, in the pale blue uniform you wore when you left, that last evening?
Together, we had walked out along the path through the peaceful fields,
And you, as you often do, had your hand on my shoulder, gentle and protective. And we walked along, as one, in perfect step, as night fell around us.
— And that evening, perhaps, more than ever, was when we felt our love’s full force. You left with a smile, and said to us all: ‘Back soon!’
— So how should I think you will never come back, when every promise you ever made you have kept?
It would be the first time you have deceived me.
— And how pointless loving you would be, and how paltry my love,
If it failed to bring you back to me, back from where they say you lie among the dead.
No one has shown me proof you are among the dead.
And I can place no reliance on their flimsy affirmations.
And I sit waiting for you, for there must always be a woman to watch the night-light,
Lest the sick man think he is alone, and the soul depart the body.