After the painting ‘Luxembourg Gardens’, Samuel Peploe (1910)
French purrs like a white cat
in the sun window and rasps
like cigarette throats after boozy nightclubs,
a language of audacity and elegance.
We learned early how to conjugate,
adding -ez and -e depending on the subject,
tacking endings on to verbs like hats.
Ask me anything. Is the Louvre nearby?
Oui, descendez cette rue étroite. I will drop words
in your palm like chocolats. We can spend
all day with our mouths around vowels,
tossing rs off our tongues
in bursts of sweet air.
But when they took me to the Jardin des Tuileries,
nobody asked me for my words.
I held them in the folds of my English skirt
gazing up at flamboyant trees, the grass lit
with flowers and everything swaying,
no firm edges, like the language
I wanted to speak.
You brush your teeth. I fold
my clothes, put them in a drawer.
You kiss my cheek and my curly hair
dances into a braid.
We softly arrange the hotel room.
You take a photo of me getting ready.
I stick my tongue out
but I’m smiling still.
Maybe someday you can shower
as I pay bills. I can cook as you make tea.
Cold plates with cheese sandwiches. Antiques.
We can browse in bookshops. Take walks.
Get an orange cat, brush the knots
out of his fur.
My face soars with color. You smooth my collar, tie a knitted scarf around my neck, like dressing a child. When we straighten the pillows and smooth the duvet, we smile as if we have won an award.
Both “French” and “Playing House” were originally published in Carly’s poetry pamphlet: Anastasia, Look in the Mirror (Stewed Rhubarb Press, 2020)
Dr. Carly Brown is a writer and academic originally from Austin, Texas and now living in Edinburgh, Scotland. She is the author of a bestselling children’s picture book, I Love St Andrews, and a debut poetry pamphlet. Her second poetry pamphlet, Anastasia, Look in the Mirror (Stewed Rhubarb Press), was released in 2020. Known for her lively and witty spoken word poetry, Carly has performed at Glastonbury Festival, StAnza Poetry Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe. She holds a Doctorate of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow and is currently working on a historical novel. Website: carlyjbrown.com