A year in Dijon learning to carve an “R”
out of the rocky landscape of English, decipher
when to say J'ai faim
the way my plump, American French teacher
would say, rubbing her stomach with pomp—
when, Je suis crevée
like the thin, tight-jeaned students on the bus—
neck-scarved and lip-glossed, cigarettes in
they complained with élan, dishing out
to feast a hungry ear. A year in Dijon, nose
in the Petit Robert,
day after day practicing my upturned bonjour
at the corner tabac, in the
fluorescent-buzzing salle de classe.
A year in Dijon, and what do I remember?
The glowing jar of apricot jam, elegant
an objet d'art—
gift of summer heat, patient orange jewel
lighting up the eaves of the tiny attic kitchen.
I twisted the lid, spooned the amber harvest,
lingered in the light of the thick, englassed
à fait contente
as if I had discovered the edibility of delight—la
de la langue—the
perfect turn of every lovely word
it departed my tongue.
Notes to a Beginning Poet
Prepare to lie
about your childhood:
toward the center
of the linoleum,
the black moon-
on the left
of your dog.
of every grass-
in the sidewalk,
the pull and slap
of every kind
of a water stain.
Spend an hour
with an insect.
take the light
a new language
of roadsigns, head-
lines, the labels
of dessert wines.
to the bookcase,
your steering wheel,
the cat. Grab
a napkin, a scrap
into the night—
in the morning,
start over again.
Abigail Carroll has published prose in the New York Times, Winterthur Portfolio, and The Journal of American Culture and is currently authoring a popular history of the American meal for Basic Books. Her poems have appeared in Grey Sparrow Journal, Numinous, Clapboard House, and Flourish, and are forthcoming in The Midwest Quarterly and River Oak Review. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from Boston University and lives in Winooski, Vermont.