That was the summer I fell asleep in German
and woke up in French. I lay down on the earth,
stared up through a three-dimensional labyrinth
of dark branches stretching toward sky.
Curves are so much more caressing than
straight lines, n’est-ce pas? Who has time
to look at parabolas? Could I express only
a parade of diversionary questions? Nein, nein,
the German inside demanded, Gib mir Antworten!
I went to a party and tried only to ask questions
and answer none. I was a spy, intimidating
to at least two persons. Questions are curves,
without closure. Could one spend a whole evening
on a stroll through someone else’s mind? How
refreshing to encounter unfamiliar corridors.
No one is throwing up skeet and asking me
to shoot. The parade massed and snapped
to attention, goose-stepped away. Replaced by
tendrils, drifting pine needles. When I awoke, I was
la belle étrangère, omnipotent in my voluptuous
listening. I could coax even the waves to speak.
Gib mir Antworten! means “Give me answers!”
la belle étrangère means “the beautiful stranger.”
—from Rattle #23, Spring 2005
Karen Braucher: “Robert Frost once said that a poem should surprise the poet writing it. On Sept. 11th, 2001, I founded a poets’ collaborative that meets not to critique but to create new poems. We have tried smells, music, videos, writing exercises, you name it. Some surprising poems (including ‘Curves’) have come out of the collaborative and we’ll never forget our anniversary.” (website)