by Elizabeth Brulé Farrell

She would come to visit
in the summer, speak
to her brother using words
I could not understand.

My father, shaking his head,
non, non, non,
would pinch together my lips,
try to shape the sound

so that just one word
might be said correctly.
I could not do what he wanted,
felt the failure of my French

and the lost chance
to learn the language that he spoke
with the hands and eyes and memory
of his childhood, his mother's imprint

across his cheek, ringing in his ear.
She, whose family came from Québec,
settling on soil they did not know,
struck him solidly when the word

beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,
was repeated for her to mimic.
I did not know this story
until after his death, until

I could learn to translate
his murmur of mon petite chou,
choosing not to strike,
but to speak with love.

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Photo/GraphiqueEffects by Rhéa Côté Robbins