Does it matter that Charles Trenet was astonishing and sang
for audiences of Nazis in Paris? It would have had Hitler
known he was gay as a frog. Off to the camp he would
have gone. No more Boum from his lips, no more swinging
hips and lyrics. Thin as Fred Astaire he wore a thousand
melodies, kept the French language purring and beautiful
as a naked woman before a mirror combing her hair.
Even in war, sometimes joy crows like a chanticleer.
With bombs dropping from the black skies of London
songs could be heard across the channel, a voice lifted
to the jack-booted crowd in the cabaret, where cigarettes’
smoke floated like waltzes across the crowded room.
In the countryside where hedgerows grew tall as buildings
and brave and frightened soldiers died by thousands, all roads
led to Ciro’s and shadows thrown from a tall laced tower.
The world accepted Trenet for being entertaining and French,
for having a taste for slender young men. And in 1989
when he left his kind, a sweet heart went Boum in his chest—
a song we can never forget.
~ William Page
William Page’s third collection of poems, ‘Bodies Not Our Own’ (Memphis State University Press), received a Walter R. Smith Distinguished Book Award. His poems have appeared in such journals as The Southern Review, Sewanee Review, North American Review, and Ploughshares, and in numerous anthologies, most recently in The Southern Poetry Anthology Volume VI. He is founding editor of The Pinch.