On Seeing Frédéric Ten Years Later

Jada Ach

Paris, September 2011


In your own country
you are not as innocent—
you wear leather in June
and order your steak rare.
In four months you will be a father,
and when I ask
how this makes you feel,
you look away from me
and say I haven't thought
much about it, really
in a dismissive French accent.

Does your wife know you're here?
Did you tell her that 10 years ago
(when you and I were still virgins,
when father was your authority
and not your name)
you smelled like what I expected
a French man to smell like,
and I called you my boyfriend for a week?


I wonder if your wife
knows about your old politics.
How you and I believed,
half jokingly, that kissing
was rebellious. After the towers fell,
my countrymen renamed
French fries as an act of protest,
and there I was
making out with the enemy.

Or did you tell her how scared I was when,
from the kiosko television
on Avenida Las Heras,
we saw the first person jump?
In every kiosko we passed
another would leap,
and then another,
and then another,
until we had had enough and decided to get drunk
on boxed wine
by the Río Suquía.

What does she know?

You were with me in the taxicab
when the driver pulled over,
shut off the ignition, and
without turning around asked
Are you afraid of bombs now,
When he finally dropped us off,
he gave me five counterfeit pesos
as change.

Have you told her any of this?

You, now cutting into the heart of your steak,
its blood mingling with the cream
sauce you Parisians love—the blood,
the cream, turning your whole plate
pink—say I have learned
how to compromise.
To become husbands,
fathers, there are certain things
we must let go of.

You smell cleaner now, like soap.
These days I wear heels and complain
about my shitty retirement plan.

You ask, Why haven't you found somebody yet?


Because, well, you see,
        my attention:
it is still a point of concern.

First we have rules,
and then the rules dissolve,
and then, well,
we're left with questions.

Am I making myself clear?

It's like a train—
no, it's like a bird, really.

    Pásame el vino, por   favor.
    Could you pass me the wine, please?
    (Why, in English, is the wine I want a question and not a command?
    This, Frédéric, is what I'm getting at.)

Goddammit, not a bird—
am I making myself clear here?
¿Vos entendés?

I mean, you of all people to be wed!
Do you remember that afternoon
you sang a lame ass Richard Marx song to me
by the dirty river? I wasn't sure
if you were for real,
but I sat,
and listened,
and (American guys would never, ever do something like that,
by the way—and for good reason)
I tried so hard to appreciate it
(fucking-Richard Marx?!)
that I actually did—
        because of what we just saw
        on the televisions,
        all of them leaping,
        all of them water-falling into gravity,
        and also because of our teachers,
        who gathered after class to tell us
        (in a castellano
        that sounded less like galloping horses
        and more like smaller animals, crawling,
        what had just occurred.

And, I'm almost drunk now—are you?
What will you name your baby?
Is your wife pretty?

Am I making myself clear?


This afternoon
we find ourselves cutting steak,
drinking wine, and smelling like
our parents. We have traded in our
politics for soap. My dad was right—
that day always comes.
And now, perched in front of bloody plates,
you use the word
"compromise" as though
it were the easiest thing
in the world. Easier than a handshake,
far easier than a kiss.

About the Author

Jada Ach received her MA in English-Creative Writing from Northern Arizona University, and she now teaches English at a college in Wilmington, NC. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Summerset Review, Southern Humanities Review, Southwestern American Literature, Blast Furnace, Weave Magazine, Barnwood Poetry Magazine, Lowestoft Chronicle, and elsewhere. In 2011 Jada participated in the Dzanc Books/CNC DISQUIET International Literary Program in Lisbon, Portugal. More recently she was awarded a 2012 North Carolina Arts Council Regional Artist Project Grant to help fund a writing program in Lithuania. She is a Fellow of the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts.