I Slip into French like Tolstoy

My fifth poetry collection, I Slip into French like Tolstoy, is now published.

This varied collection explores the themes of death and philosophy in Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the reality and horror of mental health issues, nature, and the catering industry.

Cover design and pen and ink illustrations by Mark Sheeky.

2023 is the year that I finally got round to reading War and Peace by Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy after having a dusty copy for over 10 years that cost 30p from a charity shop. (A lifetime achievement! I have his image as a screensaver on my desktop, anyway..). So I wrote my first six poems inspired by it. The title of this collection, and the first piece, refers to the way the Russian aristocracy slip into French when they lose their Russian values, a bit like an aside, or slipping into another character. The first line refers to Pierre Bezukhov who joined the Freemasons and vowed to love death. Tall order? Then we witness the musings of the character Andrei Bolkonsky as he lies next to his enemy in a war tent. Crikey. Does he forgive him? And…pourquoi avons-nous peur de la mort? Why are we afraid of death?

I Slip into French like Tolstoy

At last he wears the Freemason badge that says he loves death
Oh, death…
while his enemy groans beside him
feeling blood pump into his absent leg

A rip in the war tent reveals a cloud
plump full of petty vanities
floating over black fields

He went to war just to feel something
To lift himself out of the animal experience
instead of nourishing contempt at la vie
Yielding to sloth potatoes
Raging over fluffy conversations at parties
and his enemy groans beside him
nostrils eating low notes of butcher’s slab

Pourquoi avons-nous peur de la mort?
I slip into French like Tolstoy

Why do we fear death?
Have we not, then, lived?
Have we only lived for ourselves?
Tut Tut…
His regret winces before the Russian Grandmaster Reaper unsheathes his scythe
I love death
I love and forgive my enemy
Pourquoi avons-nous peur de la mort?
I slip into French like Tolstoy

Slave mined diamonds from our pestled earth are not enough
Those jagged reflections of want
It is not our earth
We are mere serfs in frigid winters
We don’t own rakes
We eat fallen rye crumbs from golden plates

© Deborah Edgeley

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *