new zealand electronic poetry centre


Elizabeth Smither

online works


Causing someone to follow in a foreign language

Je ne suis pas d’ici, I say
to the young woman who asks direction
but I do know where the rue Dauphine is.
Follow me, under your umbrella.

My French is broken and peculiar
and I am older. A heavy shower
though she’s uncertain binds us together
we walk in single file through the same puddles

and several times I stop to listen
if she’s following like Eurydice
this vocabulary-less Orpheus
not with a flute but a leading umbrella

and several times I turn to smile
and she smiles back as it thunders
overhead and people run
to shelter in shop doorways.

But I know the way as Orpheus did
past the market where chickens are roasting
and chestnuts and around the corner
and here is the rue Dauphine and here the Pont-neuf

and I believe I hear her say Voila
and Merci, madame, merci.
Au revoir. Au revoir, mademoiselle
and I glow under my umbrella like a peony.



©Elizabeth Smither 2004

Last updated 11 May 2001