After a Dinner at the American Embassy
Now the Hotel Talleyrand squares behind my mother and me,
the lights on its blonde face bright as the bubbles
in our abandoned drinks.
We leave the reception, the bus,
the voice of the man with the turned leg
who for six days has ushered us into and out of
and up and down. Everyone
has commented on my dress, my mother’s stories,
our place settings littered with spoonfuls
of chilled soups, saccharine voices, the wrappers of petit fours.
Now we wrap ourselves,
my thin shawl a small comfort,
a tomato skin blanched and bathed in ice, slipped
from a shivering and tender orb, roadmap of membranes,
thin as the veins on my mother’s exposed wrist
as she slips a cigarette from its pack.
The bus pulls away from the curb,
leaving us to step into the street towards the river.
A taxi skirts the corner
and my mother throws out her arm,
holds me back
from its blaring headlights.
I notice her hands,
think of how once when I was small
she slapped my face
when I pressed our old phone’s hook switch, disconnecting
her long distance call.
My skin burned. I don’t know
why I did it, but perhaps I craved her voice,
how at night she wove her childhood into smoke-darkened stories,
sitting on the side of my bed.
Now, the streetlamps at the Place de la Concorde swallow us, swallow
the sky, the muted stars.
Their incandescent globes make their own
celestial bodies, cosmos
cupped in the city’s mouth.
My mother breathes,
stamps the cigarette under her squat heel.
In my bag I have collected small papers, tickets,
an over-sized postcard of the tapestry at Bayeux,
a story of horses and ships and kings.
We must worship something.
Now, silence on the tips of our tongues,
we turn from the water, its obsidian curves,
to the Eiffel Tower rising over the 7th arrondissement.
What if I say it illuminates
just as we step beneath its cavernous belly?
That the chattering lights break over my mother and me?
A woman sings Lakmé from a tired window.
Her tourmaline voice gathers us, the lights,
the lattice dome of puddled iron, coruscation
consuming my mother’s universe
Ellene Glenn Moore is an MFA candidate at Florida International University, where she holds a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Fellowship in Poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Salamander, Bayou Magazine, Ninth Letter Online, Caliban, and elsewhere. Find her at elleneglennmoore.com.