Marraine de Guerre, Godmother of War

Wanda Praisner


          In memoriam: Pfc. F.F. Villani,
plot A, Row 18, Grave 38,
the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery

 A statue of the Archangel looks down
on a woman kneeling by a white cross,
anemones and mums in hand.

A Godmother of War, Regine, like a thousand
others, has adopted a grave of an American soldier—
one of 30,000 fallen in the Battle of Hutgen Forest
to liberate Belgium from the Nazis.

Nothing known of her Pfc, named Frederick,
until his sister came in 1957 to take soil
from his grave, home to Newark, New Jersey.

In his last V-Mail, October 1944,
he asked for single-edged razor blades.

Regine’s father, ten years old then, remembers
running after GIs for chocolate and gum.
Frederick’s father’s hair turned white overnight
after receiving the telegram.

Regine places the bouquet on the headstone,
her right hand leaning on an arm of the cross.



About the author:

Wanda S. Praisner, a recipient of fellowships from the NJ State Council on the Arts, the Dodge Foundation, Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and VCCA, has won he Egan Award, Princemere Prize, Kudzu Award, First Prize in Poetry at the College of NJ Writers’ Conference, and the 2017 New Jersey Poets Prize. She was a featured reader at the Governor’s Conference on the Arts, as well as the Dodge Poetry Festival. She’s appeared in Atlanta Review, Lullwater Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Her latest books are Natirar (Kelsay Books, 2017) and To Illuminate the Way (Kelsay Books, 2018). She’s a resident poet for the state.


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