The Last Poem

The Giving

"Enjolras?" The poet spoke softly, as if afraid. He had come to stand beside the leader, the fiercely beautiful man guarding a flag on a barricade which had not yet fallen.

"Jean? What is it?"

"I..." he faltered, "I was wondering if you would...keep something for me..."

"What do you mean, Prouvaire?" The leader's words were short, impatient. He looked over his fortress of tables and chairs into the still street.

Quickly, suddenly, as though he had made up his mind, the poet took from his pocket a paper, a folded paper, an old, worn piece of parchment. The ink was dried, and the poet's soft, curled handwriting bloomed onto the page.

"This is my last poem. I am...I do not wish to have it, when I die. I want to give it up. If you would keep it for me, I...I would would please me greatly," he finished, aware of how strange and incoherent his request was.

The leader gave him a look that confirmed this. "Why me? Why not Pontmercy, who dreams, as you do? Why not Combeferre, who appreciates such things more than I? Why, of all the men here tonight, have you chosen me?"

But the poet could not explain his strange choice. He only felt that his leader was the man that he must give the paper to. Carefully, he looked up to the golden-haired warrior. Softly, he told him, "Because it must be you. The is for you."

The leader looked startled, but upon hearing this, he reached out for the paper. "Then I will carry it. I will keep it. As you wish me to, Prouvaire."

The poet gave it up with a readiness he could not explain. "Read it if you desire, or fold it away un-examined. It is yours."

The leader rested a hand upon the poet's shoulder, looking deeply at him, reading him, opening his soul as though it were a book or layered manuscript.

He could not understand what he read, though he studied for a long time, struggling to comprehend the spirit. At last he took his hand away, and slipped the tattered page of the poet's last writing into his pocket.

He turned away, and once again his hand curled around the rod of the vast red flag he flew openly into the creeping dawn. As his fingers touched the familiar warmth of the wood where he had before held it, he spoke with decisiveness: "It will stay with me, Jehan. I will carry it after it has become impossible to make out as my blood spills over it. If it is mine, it is Patria's also, and no one saving her shall read it."

The poet smiled gently. "As you have said, Enjolras."

Then he returned to his place, watching the leader close his eyes and offer his face defiantly to the morning's pale sun as it danced over him.

"My last poem belongs to Patria. Yes...this is what was to have been done with it. My poetry, as my life, now belongs to my country. Vive la France."

The leader, still with his eyes closed, brought one hand down to cover the pocket where the single page now rested. "Vive la France."

Chapter Three.