p o e m s j e s s e  l e e  k e r c h e v a l



5000 years ago & already religion over

turns religion—


fells a 16 ton menhir

carved with deer       a running hare


& hauls it to the shore

onto a barge for the trip


to this shale island

lost among a sea of islands


buries the pictographs inside a fresh dug dolman


covers them

with pounded earth


because              like Islam 3000 years later


this new faith does not show

its God in pictures


but rather in abstraction

in sweeping curves &


circles inside circles—


God with her daughters

resting in her—


They had come so far—these first human farmers


Plants grew & cows gave birth

when                & where they ordered


Everything was possible—everything was new


So the menhir from the old believers

hunters/ gatherers          was buried—


then time covered the new religion to


these people

their boats


as time will cover ours—


now we walk to board our boat

& find the tide


                                                             20 feet


leaving our poor boat stranded

in a bay of sticky mud


the earth sleeps

the sea never


so I’m left with                time to wonder


why sit in the dark

etching circles into limestone


with nothing

but a sharp quartz pebble?


Why make the ordered marks

already fading on this page?


because you do not draw

a human head

to show the face

of God





Paris is an egg. It is the egg.

Wide or narrow, it is a ribbon

of pastry, of moonlight, of butter.

Paris is the light

gliding over our eyelids,

sneaking in even when we try

not to see. We know ourselves

through Paris & in this

Paris is as private

as blood & as public

as humiliation in high school. I broke a molar

on a piece of popcorn

watching Les Enfants du Paradis

in Paris, watching that luminous cloud Arletty

playing the heroine Garance.

Like the flower, she says

after giving her name. What flower? the audience

always murmurs. Me too—

& that’s what I love—

the not knowing.

Just as no one in the Paris of the film

can truly know Garance.


But what with the cracked tooth,

watching this film about Paris

in Paris turned out

not to be the rush of paradise

I expected, but instead,

along with Baptise the mime,

I was in agony. Baptise

from his unconsummated love

for Garance. Me from my molar,

from the pain crashing through my nerves,

& for a moment I thought

ammonia & chlorine bleach

had come accidentally together

filling the whole theater

because I was crying,

because I couldn’t breathe.


Then Paris

took me out of myself & into the souls

of the stars, filled me with great pity,

with a sense infinite space as poignant actuality,

as the light from the projector

shone over the heads of the audience.

But there is more, much more

to Paris than that. In Paris, life

runs away, is a runaway

at play & passion is everywhere.

Paris dangles all possibilities before us,

clanging as loud as bells. The mind sees

as through a glass--Heaven.

The heart sees--as through a moving curtain—

worlds beyond the bones

of everyday.





I escaped America in a hot air balloon


the same way my great grandmother

escaped the siege of Paris


I floated out of Florida,

across the iron gray Atlantic, headed for France

land where I was born,


reading waves, stars, finally maps,

looking for the lights

that signal Paris


until by morning

I was drifing past the Tour Eiffel, eye-high,

safe enough


though a few Americans threw ice

fished from their cups

of Coca-cola.


The radio talked to me in French

the way it did when I was little

& I tried to understand


like a child

without thinking

without translation

without knowing words are spelled with letters

(but tell me—is that possible?)


is it possible to smooth a scar

to baby skin—


is leaving

ever painless? Is returning?


I honestly don’t know

but I did escape America


& let me tell you—

I am never going back.





In this garden enclosed

by a stone wall

on this stone island

where the stone houses

have stone roofs—

my son twists

on a wooden swing


In between cold

rock shore & cold rock

shore, this garden

bleeds w/ roses

the bruised kiss of fuschia

Beyond the wall, in

the low & marshy land

sheep crop the sweet

salt grass


This could be

my stone house—Kercheval

in the land where

ker means home,

It could be my

parents in the cemetery close

inside the church

yard walls—my father



lost at sea

lost to war


their faces still young

in the enameled

photographs that grace

the cemetery walls

or hang in honor


in the Chapel of the Rescuers—


resting place for those

who died

searching for

neighbors/other islanders

lost in the slate grey sea.


Who have I saved

lately?—a Breton

300 years gone

from this stone land—

long ago set sail across

the wide and

salty sea?


No one, I admit

at least not



catch my son

in my arms, hoping

love—mine or God’s—

will be enough save him

First him, then

my husband

& then





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