Apollinaire's Trepanned Skull

by Con Chapman

In the spring of 1916, Apollinaire was
sitting in a trench near Berry-au-Bac,
reading Mercure de France, to which
he contributed an anecdotal column.

A shell landed near him; he ducked
to cover himself from the blast, then
returned to his paper. It was only
when blood began to drip onto the page

that he realized he'd been hit, his helmet
pierced by shrapnel. Fragments were
removed, but because of his symptoms—
vertigo, depression, paralysis, fatigue—

his skull was trepanned; a hole was bored
into his head with the trephine, to remove
pieces of bone. The operation was a
medical success, but the ghost had fled the

grotto. He ceased to write to his young fiancée,
Madeleine, the daily dispatches from his soul
with which he'd wooed her. His outré
conversation—the motley flag under which

he sailed through the salons—was lowered.
Now, he spoke with circumspection. He
no longer strove to startle, as in his youth.
He wanted to join the Legion of Honor.

He took up with a redhead and settled down
to a contented domestic life. No longer a
poet, he became a censor of newspapers,
like the one he'd been reading with pleasure,

and contributing to from the front lines,
when a German shell hit his brain.