Au Revoir, Famille d’Henrotte

You are a living Swedish doll, aged a bit, just add

clogs, skin yellow like Georgia sweet bread,

chapped hands smoothed over by liquid youth:

lavender lotion. Your glinting blue eyes are

squelched by the curves in your grin. With one

soft hand you pat–you hold my cheek, and

lean into the other to kiss. Your short straw hair

bounces against my forehead. “Remember your stop,

number three. If you miss it, I won’t be able to come

pick you up this time.” I will miss the togetherness of

watching “Plus Belle la Vie”  in the evenings while

crunching on radishes and sipping Champagne.

 

Your masculine shadow, with lightly salted black

hair, bushy bohemian eyebrows, lips of a horse,

mum, hauls my rolling luggage up off the open-

aired platform, pulling it next to my seat.

“Thank you.” He leans in, wraps his arms around

me and his well- fed gourmet French belly plumps

onto mine, reminiscent of the oysters, the grape quail,

bleu cheese and Belgian beer. With thick old

hands, he grasps my jaws and kisses-kisses

each cheek wetly. More words pass from him

next than ever I have received from him before:

“I know we have our disagreements, but you are

a good girl. You will learn. Next time we meet, I

hardly will recognize you. You go now. Do well at

school. We will cheer for you.”

 

I collapse into my seat, dabbing at my eyes,

scraping my American cheeks, and press

my whole frame up against the window,

through the murky glass, to

press–as into a mould–my mind into their

silhouettes.

 

Every time I try to see again

through that glass, to feel the rumples of their

memory mould, their Franco-faces are blotchy;

milky; eroded. More and more I see her

wearing a black manteau, less and less I see

him in that Italian leather jacket.

I want to keep looking back, straining to see,

but the train keeps moving, rolling away

into new country. Eventually, my neck will

tire, and there will be nothing left to see

but an empty platform. Alas, alas, I must

shift my gaze ahead to the bare trees,

and the sun.

 

 

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