In French class, we had to pick our French name
Giselle, Pierre, etcetera…
I picked Colette.
The teacher would take attendance,
calling out foreign pseudonyms
to a group of teenagers
who could really care less.


“Ici, madame!”

I loved the way French rolled off my tongue,
the way I had to use my lips and teeth
and throat in acrobatic ways.

My father was served in the Air Force
in France, as a weather observer.
As a child, I crawled beside him,
my head on his chest
as he read me the adventures
of Tintin and Asterix
first, in French,
always first, in French,
translating the words into english
as an afterthought.

“Je m’appelle Katie.”

“Comment ça va?”

“Ou est la toilette?”

I practiced these phrases over and over
until they were perfect. I had a pronounced
lisp when I spoke English, but not when
I spoke French. Speaking French, I was
normal, life was better, my Father was happier.

For 48 minutes in high school French class,
I could be Colette–exotic, well-read,
beautiful, conjugating verb tenses
like I’d spoken the language all my life.

“Combien ça coûte?”

How much does it cost?

How much does it cost?

How much does it cost?