French is not the easiest class to miss.
I missed almost two weeks straight
after Mom died
and a lot of other days before that
and now I am really behind.
Mom wanted me to take French
because she thought it would help
in ballet class.
Dad lost a couple of bids.
He says people are losing
the economy is bad.
The TV keeps warning
unemployment is up,
gas prices are up,
and people are fed up,
according to Dad.
I don’t know why he
has to watch,
it only makes him
yell at the TV.
Dad says we need to conserve
more than we have been.
Now the house feels cooler
and when I complain
to go outside and come back in,
then I’ll feel warmer.
Harriet and I spend our time bundled in
an extra layer of clothes
dragging around our afghans mom made
like giant moths in cocoons.
We are out of butter again.
to try using peanut butter.
Well isn’t the word
Harriett won’t eat her toast
and it just sits on the plate
like the floors
in this house
and suddenly one phrase comes to me.
Il fait froid.
Il fait froid dans la maison!
The measured sawn board, sanded seat
parallel to the rise where the sappy roots dive
two ropes, worked through the holes,
knotted and plum.
My father pulls the swing, leans back over the edge of the world,
grasps the ropes with hands as scored as the inside of our wheelbarrow
the toes of his boots dig into the stubbled grass
behind the dirt patch launch.
Legs tucked, elbows bent,
a rocket ride promised to aim straight for the smiling sun,
the giddy countdown
the push, as we move forward together
the rush of the under duck, my legs unfold
reach to the robin’s egg sky above the pine bough
back to the bursting forsythias
back to him.
It catches my eye as I walk across the room
tawny spots, gray tinged slink across the snowmelt
right, left, right, left – like pendulums to her clock
clawless tracks of a wildcat, a string of calling cards
for the squirrel, the vole, the quick snowshoe hare
and here I stand at the slider, aware, my desk a cache
my camera zooms, focuses, clicks, hunts her down
she licks and preens, lithe and lynx-like in the copse
a crowned queen on her throne of stone, she’s alone
paws retract now, tuck in against the cold, eyes half-close
under gray sky, undercover in her coated mantle of instinct