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.