OÚ EST LE CHAT By Cathleen Calbert

Où est le chat

I can ask this, which is good

in case I need to find a cat

in France. Otherwise,

 

peut-être other questions:

Quelle heure est-il? Qu’est-ce que c’est?

Except I won’t understand the answers.

 

If I ask Où est le chat,

a Parisian would need

to point and perhaps growl at me.

 

What else might I try?

Pardon, monsieur, how does one

find le metro or l’autobus?

 

Meaning in a meaningless universe?

Why am I in Paris without my husband?

Mon mari. Sick soulmate of mine.

 

I shall trod upon the cobblestone streets

of my imagination avec ma soeur, a negative

of me, so said mon ami, though I am

 

the black version, I believe, of a long-gone

mother’s womb-fruit: sad-eyed shadow-poet

to my sibling’s bright Capitalism. No one

 

on this bus is interesting. N’est-ce pas?

They work for insurance companies and read

a hundred shades of gray or something equally dumb.

 

But they’re nice as Nice. Friendly and lumpy,

as I like my Americans. I’m the one

with the slow tongue and black leather jacket.

 

Où est le chat? It may come up, after all.

A café, sleeping pup, handsome man.

Who knows? Hey, Henri, où est . . .

 

Except life doesn’t work that way.

Je ne comprends pas. Je suis perdu.

Je suis désolé. Merci beaucoup

 

for these small (or large) confusions

as well as one last sweet chance

to run away with my lighter sister

 

and an oddly disappearing kitty.

I shall call her “the Cat of Mystery.”

This will only add to my happiness.


 

Cathleen Calbert’s poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction have appeared in many publications, including The New Republic, The New York Times, The Paris Review, Poetry, and The Women’s Review of Books. She is the author of three books of poetry: Lessons in Space (University of Florida Press), Bad Judgment (Sarabande Books), and Sleeping with a Famous Poet (C.W. Books). Her awards include The Nation Discovery Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the Tucker Thorp Professorship at Rhode Island College, where she currently teaches.

Issue #47 May 2015
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