Cathleen Calbert

May 8, 2015 Calbert Cathleen

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 has published four books of poetry: Lessons in Space, Bad Judgment, Sleeping with a Famous Poet, and The Afflicted Girls. Her work has appeared as well in many other publications, including the Nation, Paris Review, and the New York Times.