A rough wool sweater in a trunk blossoms
into ancient flowers in winter—Fernande.
Who was she? The cook, governess, nurse
I abandoned when my parents abandoned
their marriage. The woman I forgot, taking up again
with my mother once home in the States.
The body of Paris always comes back in a scent:
the Metro, the courtyards, the steamy tabacs;
a long-packed sweater unfolding my Fernande,
the luxe Gallic bosom; thick arms
lifting me out of the smashed dinnerplates,
away from the two drunk Americans into the lap
of a Frenchwoman who had killed nine Germans
in one year, and seemed would kill for me.
I want to name something after her,
take the name I said carelessly
a hundred times a day, all the time asking
for something, Fernande, je veux
quelques chose à manger, Fernande,
je veux aller dehors – I want,
I want – I want Fernande’s adult eyes
looking into mine; and to breathe
her womanly fragrance one more time;
and to say, I name this: Whatever part of me,
having traveled from an outer arrondissement
on a dark February morning, arrives on time,
and starts the kettles in the kitchen:
Fernande, whatever part of me is faithful.
Published in The Scheme of Things, 2015.