That pretty, petulant face. I can still see her –
blue eyes, black curls flying – dancing round me
on the flagstones by those big, shady trees
in the school-yard, flicking questions at me
about England: a place I remembered as pale
and drab, back-gardens watered down with rain;
a polite sameness of brick, (and, somewhere, surely,
my new bike and roller-skates, left behind).
What did she ask me, and what did I say
that brought her to a shocked standstill?
It was wiped out by her cry: C’est un mensonge!
What is this word? I move closer, wanting
her to repeat it, and she flinches, thinks
I’m about to slap her but, Qu’est-ce que
ça veut dire? I ask (a useful phrase).
Poised for flight, she flings out, Que c’est pas vrai!
Accused of lying, I should be angry
but, mensonge, I murmur, mensonge;
testing those vowels that could slip,
become mon songe, though only if I say so.
I take my word to share with the unknown trees.
Note: un songe in French means ‘a dream’, and un mensonge is ‘a lie’