At seventeen, in a freshly-pressed cotton dress,
you rode your bicycle and frolicked in the fields,
tasted paella and chorizo for the first time,
learned tango steps with your Spanish lover.
In those days, wedding dresses were blood-stained
but yours, in its blackness, would not have shown any red.
Beside, the child within, kicked his approval
when at eighteen, you said I do.
From Spain he did not bring you a Velazquez but his wounded eye.
At times when the German bombs rained over Lyons,
too tired to descend into the sweltering shelters,
you bundled under the kitchen table, four children
mesmerised by the dancing shadows the kerosene lamps drew.
You tasted the smell of fear, of death,
of dust, hatred and submission
but you kept the sewing machine singing
to make from sheepskin and leather a jacket for your man.
When electricity returned and curfews were lifted
when plates and glasses tinkled anew,
he made love to you to celebrate your blue-eyed beauty.
I am the testimony of your love.
The dusk of life lingered over newly-born boys.
Christenings made way to communions and weddings
and the fruit and vegetables of his labour
joined the silenced chickens and rabbits
to regale your guests around festive tables.
And on Father's day, as suddenly as he had given you his heart,
he rattled in agony and departed without the murmur of a goodbye.
Only then, memories of a life begun at seventeen,
blood-stained forever your thick woollen dress.