Two poems by Pepper Trail

En Route

Every key is left behind
Front door, back door, shed
The car, the wife’s car, the work car
Office building, office, filing cabinet
Wife, older son, younger son, dog
Shelves of books, racks of wine
With empty pockets, I am ready for the sky
The hours of ocean, the turning earth
The descent, the new language, the new world
Strange birds in the trees, and a city of doors
To try, one by one

Speaking French in Hanoi

It happened again and again in Hanoi.
An old man, thinning hair, halting steps,
would approach as I sat on a park bench,
would bow, and ask, Parlez-vous Francais?
The first times I shook my head:
No – American, and remained alone.

But then, I thought to say, Un peu,
(for truly it is a little, a very little),
and he sat beside me, smiling, and we pieced
together the half-forgotten lessons, the old memories.
Mine of powdery white Madame Frost, rows of desks,
the new green leaves outside the schoolroom windows.
His, of another Hanoi, unknowable to me,
A quiet city of bicycles, the colony of childhood,
and together we remembered when we
were young, and ruled, and free.

About the author

Trail is an ornithologist, photographer, natural history guide, and poet. His work has taken him around the world, with time living in Panama, Suriname,…

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Issue 20 · May 2014

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