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Vol. 2, No. 3

Partisans, 1944
by Curzio Malaparte

I

Around midnight,
  We went to buy cigarettes from the partisans.
  And where the forest became thicker,
  About a mile upriver,
  Where big blocks of red granite
  Thrust upward through the grass,
  We stopped, and waited.
  It was raining.
  
  The rain fell from a high, luminous midnight sky:
  One of those transparent Arctic midnights of polished aluminum.
  Muffled birdsong filtered through branches
  Of red pine and white birch,
  And the voice of the river rose and fell
  Like the light from a kerosene lantern.
  Suddenly the partisans appeared:
  Young, blond, tall, thin,
  With red cheeks and blue eyes,
  Impeccably dressed in Allied uniforms:
  Jackets, overcoats, boots, and gloves
  All parachuted in from British planes.
  We had brought bread, brandy,
  Reindeer milk, and meat,
  In exchange for cigarettes, soap, and toothpaste.
  
  They would hail us in English: Good morning.
  And we would answer in Finnish: Hyvää päivää.
  And then we would all sit on the grass,
  Around a fire of twigs,
  Roast a piece of reindeer meat and drink brandy
  In silence, without the usual toasts.
  
  We talked little,
  And never of the war.
  There was a tacit understanding:
  Never talk of war.
  No one wished to be reminded that we were enemies.
  After a couple of hours we would get up,
  Shake hands in silence,
  And each would return to his hideout, cabin, or tent.

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