Abigail Carroll


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 taught—
Répétez she would say, rubbing her stomach with pomp—
            and when, Je suis crevée

like the thin, tight-jeaned students on the bus—
neck-scarved and lip-glossed, cigarettes in hand.
            C'est vâchement dur,

they complained with élan, dishing out slang enough
to feast a hungry ear. A year in Dijon, nose stuck

in the Petit Robert,

day after day practicing my upturned bonjour
at the corner tabac, in the cologne-soaked bus,
            the fluorescent-buzzing salle de classe.

A year in Dijon, and what do I remember?
The glowing jar of apricot jam, elegant
            as an objet d'art—

gift of summer heat, patient orange jewel
lighting up the eaves of the tiny attic kitchen.
            Gourmande, impatiante,
I twisted the lid, spooned the amber harvest,
lingered in the light of the thick, englassed orchard
            tout à fait contente
as if I had discovered the edibility of delight—la joie
de la langue—the perfect turn of every lovely word
            before it departed my tongue.

Notes to a Beginning Poet

Prepare to lie
about your childhood:
the dent
toward the center
of the linoleum,
the black moon-
shaped spot
on the left
of your dog.
the root-tip
of every grass-
blade, every
hair-thin crack
in the sidewalk,
the pull and slap
of every kind
of flip-flop.
an expert
on icicles,
eyeglass frames,
the evolution

of a water stain.
Spend an hour
with an insect.
the sunset
with the
that tool-kit
of sound—then
take the light
apart. Start
a new language
of roadsigns, head-
lines, the labels
of dessert wines.
Teach it
to the bookcase,
your steering wheel,
the cat. Grab
a napkin, a scrap
of envelope,
your chewed-up,

capless pen.
Write deep,
deep, deep
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.



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