January 18, 2011

Terry Martin

WHEN MY SISTER CUT FRENCH CLASS

She dreamed herself wearing a red beret
sipping cappuccino in a Paris café,
speaking the most beautiful language
in the world with ease and grace—
How are you? That’s a nice hat.
What time is it? I’d like some cheese, please—

but when my sister cut French class
three days in a row and Monsieur Skinner
gave a surprise test on Friday asking them
to write an essay using the new vocabulary
they had learned that week, all she could
remember was one phrase from Monday—
à toute vitesse—so she began: I woke up at top speed,
ate my breakfast at top speed, took the school bus,
which traveled at top speed
and so on,
and when she got her test back
a large “F” circled at the top of the page,
scrawled in ink red as a beret
was Monsieur’s one-line comment:
You must have been exhausted!

from Rattle #33, Summer 2010
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