Lost in Bastogne

When I left, I hadn’t planned on walking that long. I woke up, walked up to the great star of the WWII monument just outside of town, and then, really just because, I ventured off on a lone dirt road that wound into a cloudy, wet distance.

At first, I remember nothing but sun and farmland and quiet, grazing cows. Cows I could walk up to and just stare at… they never, for some reason, seemed bothered by me. Then, on the very edge of town, the old Belgian man getting his mail as I walked down the road. I’ll never forget speaking to him in broken French, saying something about the beauty of the day, and wishing him well. But, I kept going.

It did, eventually, become too much, and the first charm wore off as the run started coming down, and I got increasingly lost. Wandering in a maddening haze. But I was drawn by the history of the place. Bastogne. The outskirts of town and the hills where the Battle of the Bulge had been fought. And everywhere signs pointing to monuments that, for some reason, I could never find. Just dirt and rain, my shoes soaked and ruined, and…

The bleak, thick forests
Stands of ominous, dark tress –
Something happened here.

19 thoughts on “Lost in Bastogne

  1. kanzensakura May 9, 2016 / 8:04 pm

    Yes, it did. My father fought there but rarely spoke of any of his experiences. It sounds tiring but….lost in the countryside – I’ll take that over being lost on a city street any day. I like the sense of history in this.

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  2. B. E. Adalgari May 9, 2016 / 8:16 pm

    I notice how you haven’t glossed over the rather un-poetic, unromantic truth that walking, and getting a bit lost, in an unfamiliar place can sometimes verge on the annoying and physically uncomfortable. I like that you undermined the usual tropes a little bit, while still letting your readers indulge in the pleasure of your wanderings through the countryside. For some reason the image of the cows that were calm and unbothered as you walked up to them. So idyllic. And the mingling of the human and natural history of the area is beautifully presented. There’s something interesting about “signs pointing to monuments… I could never seem to find.”

    This was lovely to read. Very warm and engaging

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    • B. E. Adalgari May 9, 2016 / 8:19 pm

      Sorry– bit of a confusing mistake I made there, and I can’t see an option to edit.

      Should read ” For some reason the image of the cows that were calm and unbothered as you walked up to them stuck with me the most. Very idyllic.”

      Again, sorry bout that

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  3. Adriana Citlali Ramírez May 9, 2016 / 8:41 pm

    We never know how far we will go when we start walking. Your poem has so many interesting turns and feelings (discoveries, peaceful moments, tiredness, …). I really enjoyed it.

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  4. Linda Kruschke May 9, 2016 / 9:53 pm

    This is awesome! You’ve reminded me of a walk I once took where we got a bit lost. I assume you eventually found your way back, or else you wouldn’t be here to write about it.

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  5. Victoria C. Slotto May 9, 2016 / 10:01 pm

    This felt so familiar to me from when I lived in Brittany. I have to wonder if this is the Belgian memorial where my father’s name is inscribed. They never recovered his remains–he was the pilot of a B-24 and went down with his plane. Thanks for sharing this, Matthew.

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  6. Pleasant Street May 9, 2016 / 11:09 pm

    Marvelous narrative of your walk. I’m happy to see a poem about WWII. I study it on my own but I have never written about it. You’ve inspired me

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  7. jillys2016 May 9, 2016 / 11:29 pm

    Matthew, the appearance of ‘dead ends’ in your narrative are heart-stoppers! Being lost, the maddening haze, the ellipses that trail off – well done!

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  8. Charley May 9, 2016 / 11:49 pm

    I love the incredible understatement with which you finish your haiku! After suffering through a day like you describe I might be likely to dismiss the whole thing with an exhausted wave of my hand.

    Like

  9. Grace May 10, 2016 / 12:23 am

    I admire the dark undertones of the forest and place…something terrible has happened as seen from those monuments ~ Good one Matthew ~

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  10. Sumana Roy May 10, 2016 / 7:20 am

    I like the details of the walk and how the charm breaks and the possibility of mystifying horrors…specially with the end haiku…

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  11. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) May 10, 2016 / 7:24 am

    I really admire how you went to the bleaker side of walking.. even when we love it we tend to end up in those places filled with memories that we probably should remember, but prefer to forget. It’s like the landscape itself have been contaminated with events of the past.

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  12. navasolanature May 10, 2016 / 9:18 am

    I love the something happened here at the end. Bastogne? Ihave visited these sites with school parties and we have all stood in awe of the natural beauty and what did happen there.

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  13. lillian May 10, 2016 / 2:01 pm

    You shift the moods of this piece — I especially like the detail of the old man and trying to speak with him in broken French. Somehow, his hands come to mind here — I suspect they are “hard worked” hands.
    Very much enjoyed this — and yes. We can wander and enjoy and then the wandering can turn into quite something else.
    I also thought about a walk we took on a European trip — we were standing on a beach where the ships with soldiers in WWII took off from to go to Normandy. It’s quite solemn and the land and trees and sand blend to become the natural memorial to men who set off to their death from that place. Oh my — your writing took me on a walk within my mind!

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  14. maria May 10, 2016 / 4:21 pm

    That haiku in the end made me cringe. What a thrill! 😀

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  15. Mish May 13, 2016 / 5:14 am

    The varying thoughts and images in your haibun, kept me engaged and curious. Enjoyed this very much.

    Like

  16. Rosemary Nissen-Wade May 15, 2016 / 4:00 am

    Very atmospheric.

    Like

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