Mark Jarman

5 June 1952 / Mount Sterling, Kentucky

Song of Roland

Roland was a Paladin of Charlemagne,
And he was my mother's cousin. The Paladin
Served Charlemagne and died, blowing his horn.
The cousin spent a day with her at the fair
Over sixty years ago. The great Paladin
Enjoys an epic named after him.
The cousin is remembered as a big kid
Who never grew up. His first wife left him,
Taking only the pillows from the pool furniture.
Roland the epic hero was betrayed
By a fellow Paladin. Roland the cousin bought
A box of face powder for his younger cousin,
And on the octopus, which they had ridden
So often the owner let them ride for free,
He convinced her to open up the box.
Roland's horn resounds through ages
Of high school lit classes. There's a cloud
The carnie thinks is an explosion and stops
His ride, and banishes the powdered laughing children,
Roland, the young hero, and my mother
Creamy with dust in a new blue coat.
Roland's song comes down from the Pyrenees.
His namesake went back to school, after his wife left,
Became a mining engineer, worked in North Dakota,
Married again, learned after the death of his parents
He'd been adopted, was devastated, and died
In his late 30s of congenital heart failure. He lives on, though.
An old woman remembers that day at the fair
And as much of his life and fate as any of us
Is likely to have immortalized in song.
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