Poem

Trying to Learn French Again

Je ne retiens rien de nouveau.
And all that I used to know
se cache dans la peur.

It is so bad that I even forgot
the word for library.
Je ne sais pas pourquoi.

Is it that I am so much older now?
Ou que je n’ai jamais été aussi
intelligente pour commencer?

All that remains is the question:
Où allez-vous, s’il vous plaît?

How many times hitching rides from Paris
pour aller n’importe où
did we ask that that summer
et regarde bêtement pendant qu’ils répondent?

Remember that July evening in Avignon
quand on traversait le Pont Edouard Daladier
returning from the city to our campsite on the Rhône

et nous avons été tellement surpris par les feux d’artifice?
Explosions of giant peonies raining down

et le final, la cascade ardente
spilling over the edge of the Pont d’Avignon.
Et nous avons demandé à quelqu’un pourquoi ces feux d’artifice.

How is it that the date and its significance had escaped us?
Nous étions si jeunes alors. C’était excusable.

And yet, now — over 40 years later — how do I explain that
when visiting Montréal Je suis surprise d’apprendre

librairie is the word for bookstore and bibliothèque
has vanished from my memory?

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Alyson Lie

Alyson Lie

Alyson is a writer, editor, meditator, and dharma practitioner. She lives in Cambridge, MA.