rewetting my lips, I silently catalog my humble French,
gleaned exclusively in films my then-unloved guts felt like ricochets, snuck furiously
into the margins of journals, hieroglyphics
outside the dark theatre.
a volatile spirit in odd years, I learned Nina’s Non Me Quitte Pas
in a single train ride. her voice a blueprint for unrequited love.
I wore less color then, afraid orange would lie about me.
he’d assumed I spoke it well. I have the lips for it,
like anyone. 7’o’clock Paris time, the first of July. his eyes brazenly peeking
beyond my speckled shoulders, tender and hot,
with yesterday’s sun-drenched tonguing
snuck against walls and beneath overhanging flowers.
the girls nine paces ahead (they counted), mimicking a hopping bird nearby,
all blue and yellow spots out the corners of my eyes.
he smelled then of cedarwood and my coffee breath, both gifts –
time never crept as slow to earth as that morning in the deli,
bag splayed open on linoleum, desperate for handling,
like me. his brow-beaten wrinkles dreamy with sweat,
paint-covered hands rolling a jar of pasta sauce across tiles –
it was not tomato season and we were running late, I told mother later.
foggy-eyed, parting lips, sweet pea, escaping my throat. my girl’s pigtails whipping
around the corner, her eyes wild lilac wine and secret tales. we raced out
hand in hand and dinner-less, two mad eels buzzing.
we hid behind the popsicle cart attendant
when he passed by us at the market the following weekend.
we met many merchants and farmers this way,
our bags later heaped with embarrassment bouquets.
his left-hand’s fingers wrapped between a bespectacled girl-person’s, hiding
a possible gold band, and it would be an entire summer of markets
before I was truly his own, wily as any broken-souled thing.
do not leave me, I mouth into the pillow, musky with his sweaty sleep,
the sun’s whisper rays teasing new kissing alleys to be found.