THE LIBERATION OF EUROPE

by Ken Jones

 

Manet's water lilies were yesterday. Tomorrow, the creamy limestone of a ruined abbey by the Loire. But today is what they call the Tourisme de Mémoire.
 
Near the entrance, in laundered khaki and field grey, waxworks with real guns stand about indifferent. But there are lots of videos, where reliving liberation is easier on the feet. Second time round - the same pill box, torched again. The camera in the screaming Stuka shoots the terrified refugees. And the roar of Spitfires in Our Finest Hour is punctuated by bored infants' screams.

Thumbs up and grinning
sixty years later
nobody smiles back

Liberated from a death camp, and begging next to the Café, a shrinking skeleton stares out from his photo.
 
In the Shop you can use The Allied Commanders as fridge magnets, or take home a Tiger tank.

D-Day jigsaw
reassemble Omaha Beach
four hundred pieces

Pushing at the exit my knotted hand, seventy-eight years old.
 
Outside, all spotless lawn and smooth cube buildings. The flags of Europe hang bland and reassuring. Its peoples crowd their car park, well-behaved... and yet...

Tasting nothing
the greedy present
consumes the violent past

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