This poem appears in the Fall 2022 / Winter 2023 issue of Modern Age. To subscribe to the journal, click here.

Of mostly Spanish blood, but French, Cassou,
Though homme de lettres, living, writing well
—translations, essays, novels, poems too—
In ’40 started a Resistance cell

His friends and he called “Literary Club.”
His means were words—a newssheet, underground.
A state museum served them as a hub.
When the Gestapo threw its seine around

Them, he fled south, but later he was caught,
Tried, sentenced to a Vichy prison. Might
He have encountered worse? Of course. He thought
Of those in Drancy, and the “fog and night”

Of camps in Germany, just barely known.
He suffered, though; he could not write—no pen,
No paper, nothing—just cold walls of stone.
Yet language throve somehow—the oxygen 

Of self. He mined it, underneath his breath,
Then did a second poem, remembering
His father’s brilliance and his early death,
Old songs his Spanish mother used to sing,

The lines of Valéry, Apollinaire,
And Hugo’s, protesting—an exercise
At night, in concentration, dark despair,
Yet charms. The sonnets formed before his eyes

And sounded inwardly; soon others, born
Of loneliness, love, loyalty to France,
Took shape. He finished thirty-three. To mourn
Is pointless now; the poet found his chance

And strung out verses, beads of hope before
The struggle ended—stelae, with the price
Of empire paid, like those of the Great War,
Enduring evidence of sacrifice.