Fleur de Lis
Quebec City, February 1987
“I’ve never seen the ocean,” he says
and she gasps,
almost shaking the salt and sand
of the Atlantic off her hand.
He smiles and toasts to the Canadiens.
She sees icicles form on lashes,
and a nose tint a pale violet.
She feels the pain as her feet thicken into ice
blocks, like the sculptures gracing the squares.
The cold spikes through her legs
as she hobbles on frosted cobblestone streets
in the wrong shoes and
tipsy from too much wine.
No, it was a kir, a drink that sweetens and soothes.
So maybe not too tipsy,
though a bit giddy from the crispness of
freedom that comes from
crossing borders and leaving boundaries.
The night is foreign and intimate.
Voices in the streets call out
to someone unseen.
She wants to know who they are,
but she already does.
She is one of them,
savoring every ordinary moment.
This poem is recollection of my first trip to Quebec City as a high school senior. Six of us girls went with Madame Sue Fynan to Quebec City to view the Winter Carnival (Carnivale D'Hiver) in February. Madame Fynan was a whole 26 years old as the adult chaperone and 15 year old girls really pushed the edge. As a senior, I was unceremoniously recruited as her peer and asked to help watch out for misdemeanors. (Actually the 'she' in the first paragraph is one of the girls who was flirting with a local guy and I had to hang around her to make sure she wasn't alone). My travelmates and I had that "Breakfast Club" experience - extreme bonding for four days and then we went our separate ways when we returned back to school.
I wrote this a year or so ago. I didn't want this poem to be about my whole trip, else I'd be discussing crepes and La Bonhomme D'Hiver and all sorts of things. No, this is just about a moment.. a memory of walking on cobblestone street in the cold in the wrong shoes.
Anyway, I've been a Francophile from the time I was 12 and Quebec set my impressions of the French culture.