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.