Song of Roland
Roland was a Paladin of Charlemagne, And he was my mother’s cousin. The Paladin Served Charlemagne and died, blowing his horn. The cousin spent a day with her at the fair Over sixty years ago. The great Paladin Enjoys an epic named after him. The cousin is remembered as a big kid Who never grew up. His first wife left him, Taking only the pillows from the pool furniture. Roland the epic hero was betrayed By a fellow Paladin. Roland the cousin bought A box of face powder for his younger cousin, And on the octopus, which they had ridden So often the owner let them ride for free, He convinced her to open up the box. Roland’s horn resounds through ages Of high school lit classes. There’s a cloud The carnie thinks is an explosion and stops His ride, and banishes the powdered laughing children, Roland, the young hero, and my mother Creamy with dust in a new blue coat. Roland's song comes down from the Pyrenees. His namesake went back to school, after his wife left, Became a mining engineer, worked in North Dakota, Married again, learned after the death of his parents He’d been adopted, was devastated, and died In his late 30s of congenital heart failure. He lives on, though. An old woman remembers that day at the fair And as much of his life and fate as any of us Is likely to have immortalized in song.
From Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2011 by Mark Jarman. Reprinted with permission of Sarabande Books. All rights reserved.