Meeting the British, Paul Muldoon

Meeting the British

We met the British in the dead of winter.
The sky was lavender

and the snow lavender-blue.
I could hear, far below,

the sound of two streams coming together
(both were frozen over)

and, no less strange,
myself calling out in French

across that forest-
clearing. Neither General Jeffrey Amherst

nor Colonel Henry Bouquet
could stomach our willow-tobacco.

As for the unusual
scent when the Colonel shook out his hand-

kerchief: C’est la lavande,
une fleur mauve comme le ciel
.

They gave us six fishhooks
and two blankets embroidered with smallpox.

— Paul Muldoon, Meeting the British (Faber&Faber, 1987)

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