Beautiful Noise

Crossing the Wire

"J'ai peur..." she murmured,

and a kitten crossed my mind,

eyes wide with curious alarm,

paws delicately poised,

legs stiff for flight.

I heard the purr of her voice

and lost the rest. Fear of what?

I should have heard. She said it,

too softly for my angled French.

"Don't be afraid," I almost said;

Then we spoke of English fears:

the glazed freeway,

the lights that made her "étourdie,"

blinking like a kitten

on her first dark street.

"Fear of what?" I should have said.

I have French like a bad connection,

taking urgent transatlantic messages,

garbled with static, partial, too soft,

delayed as I pick through phrases slowly,

delicately as I'd cross rocks and ice.

Give me words like things;

Give me things themselves;

Give me all languages or none.

I know what I fear.

I tread the wire

softly, as if a lighter tread could calm the swing,

delicately, my head still aching from a wound,

carefully, trusting not my blurred vision but

the touch of toe, the give and spring beneath.

Something in me looks down and offers panic;

Something tells me, "Move quickly; slow will fall."

I hear. I refuse to listen yet. I hear.

–November, 1997

Poetry Writing Dancing Badger