ISSN 1551-8086
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   poets list
   Francisco Dominguez & Aire Celeste Norell
   Marie Lecrivain & Angel Uriel Perales
   Sheikha A.
   Steve Abee
   L. Ward Abel
   Carl Abt
   Han Adcock
   Elizabeth Addis
   Aderemi Adegbite
   Adeolu Emmanuel Adesanya
   Neil Aitken
   M.I Akande
   Shahd Al-Shemmari
   Lynn Albanese
   Nicole Alexander
   Gwyndyn Alexander
   Scott Alexander
   Alaina Renee Alexander
   Inalegwu Omapada Alifa
   Maureen Alsop
   Rafael Alvarado
   Steven Alvarez
   Keiko Amano
   Veronica An
   Amy Anderson
   Kristine Anderson
   G.D. Anderson
   Zack Anderson
   Lori Anderson-Moseman
   Grace Andreacchi
   Renae Andruse
   Arlene Ang
   Roger Angle
   Stephen Anstay
   Azure Antoinette
   Theresa Antonia
   Aurora Antonovic
   Maria A Arana
   Carlye Archibeque
   Joseph Armstead
   Feral Artist
   Baron James Ashanti
   Charlene M. Ashendorf
    Askew
   Gregory Austin
   Shawn Aveningo
   maeghanne ayers
   Goodness Lanre Ayoola
   John-Patrick Ayson
   Jim Babwe
   Sophie Bachard
   Vasile Baghiu
   Bridget Bagne
   song-hue bahk
   Michael Baker
   Prerna Bakshi
   Anna Balint
   David Banuelos
   Jared Barbick
   J. Mae Barizo
   Peter Barlow
   Matthew A. Barraza
   James Barros
   Jeni Bate
   Jonathan Beale
   Richard Beban
   Gary Beck
   Gary Beck
   Lytton Bell
   Hakim Bellamy
   Michele Beller
   Laura Bellotti
   Stefanie Bennett
   Hayley Berariu
   Kevin Berger
   Lawrence Berger
   Mike Berger, Ph.D.
   Tom Berman
   luis cuauhtemoc berriozabal
   Catherine Berry
   Nick Bertelson
    Besskepp
   Mary Rose Betten
   Cheryl Beychok
   Gwendolyn Beyer
   François Biajoux
   Heitham Black
   Jarvis Black
   Beau Blue
   Rose Mary Boehm
   Bonnie Bolling
   Julie Bolt
   Lek Borja
   Cristogianni Borsella
   Gerald Bosacker
   Amanda Boschetto
   Wendy Bourke
   Jack G. Bowman
   Jennifer Bradpiece
   Bob Bradshaw
   Marcielle Brandler
   Peter Branson
   Sumiko Braun
   Adam Bresson
   Quiana Briggs
   Jack Bristow
   paulo brito
   Alan Britt
   Michelle Brodeur
   Lynne Bronstein
   Charles Brooks
   Jason Sanford Brown
   zoey brown
   Leah Brown
   Deborah Edler Brown
   Adam Levon Brown
   Bob Browning
   Sir Mark Bruback
   MC Bruce
   Jeffrey Bryant
   Kate Buckley
   Robin M. Buehler
   Ron Burch
   Graham Burchell
   Maria Rose Burgio
   Betsy Burke
   Matt Burns
   Richard Burrill
   Zachary C. Bush
   Tony Bush
   Elissa Calvin
   Joseph Camhi
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Dana Campbell
   Velene Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Neil Campbell
   Luis Campos
   Janine Canan
   Lyn Cannaday
   Pasquale Capacosa
   Joey Capone
   Hélène Cardona
   Britton Laine Carducci
   D.J. Carlile
   Julia Carlson
   Alicia Carpenter
   Jonathan Carr
   Patricia Carragon
   Oscar Carrasco
   Jared Carter
   Michael Aaron Casares
   John Casey
   Lisa Castro
   Rachael Kelechi Caulker
   Nika Cavat
   Michael Caylo-Baradi
   Steve Ceniceros
   Michael Ceraolo
    Cerise
   Robert Cesaretti
   Cheryl Chambers
   Lita-Luise Chappell
   Shibani Chattopadhyay
   Lisa Cheby
   Beth Cheng
   Ralph-Michael Chiaia
   Juhi Chowdhury
   David Christensen
   Darice Clark
   Terry Clark
   Phil Clark
   Terry Clark
   Charles Claymore
   Jeanette Clough
   Kim Cochran
   Ed Coet
   Tobi Cogswell
   Megan Coker
   Bruce Colbert
   Merrill Cole
   Karen E. Cole
   Christopher Coleman
   Larry Colker
   Beverly M. Collins
   Christiane Conésa-Bostock
   David Concepcion
   Christiane Conesa-Bostock
   Brendan Connell
   Alice Constantine
   Jack Cooper
   Flavia Cosma
   Rachel Coventry
   R. Paul Craig
   David Cravens
   William Crawford
   Natalie Crick
   Rosemarie Crisafi
   Carla Criscuolo
   Chris Crittenden
   Benjamin Crowley
   Susan Culver
   Joe Cyr
   Jim D Babwe
   Morgaine d'Abney
   Karen Corcoran Dabkowski
   Daniel Daian
    Dalton
   Catherine Daly
   Iris Dan
   Marie Lecrivain & Daniel Gallik
   Dan Danila
   Michelle Daugherty
   Piper Davenport
   Kathrine David
   Gareth Davies
   Holly Day
   Frank De Canio
   Gregory De Feo
   Steve De France
   J de Salvo
   J. de Salvo
   kumari de Silva
   Pijush Kanti Deb
   Shalla DeGuzman
   JD DeHart
   Diane Dehler
   Aurelius Demarco
   Darren C Demaree
   Gloria Derge
   Chris Derrico
   Lea Deschenes
   Maurice Devitt
   Theo Diamantis
   Mike Dias
   Martin Dickinson
   Edward J DiMaio
   Mark Dixon
   Peggy Dobreer
   Rosemarie Dombrowski
   Francisco J. Dominguez
   Linsly Donnelly
   Lisa Helene Donovan
   Kevin Doran
   Marvin Louis Dorsey
   John Dorsey
   Marvin Dorsey
   Laura A. Lionello & Douglas Richardson
   Doug Draime
   Donelle Dreese
   Dale Duke
   Jawanza Dumisani
   Henri Dumolet
   Max Dunbar
   t. joseph dunn
   Robin Wyatt Dunn
   Tyler Dupuis
    Durenda
   Walter Durk
   Douglas Dvorkin
   Ron Dvorkin
   Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi
   Alfie Ebojo aka alfie numeric
   Elisabeth Adwin Edwards
   Sabrina Edwards
   Patricia J. Edwards
   Miguel Eichelberger
   John Elison
   Julian Ellis
   Neil Ellman
   K. Eltinaé
   R.M. Engelhardt
   Margarita Engle
   Jon Epstein
   Sufi Erter
   Eli Eshaghian
   Michael Estabrook
   Alexis Rhone Fancher
   Richard Fein
   John Feins
   Emily Fernandez
   Melissa Fischer
   W.S. Fisher
   Jamie Asae FitzGerald
   Amelia Fleetwood
   Jake Fleshner
   John Jay Flicker
   David Flynn
   Arthur Charles Ford
   Liz Fortini
   Sesshu Foster
   Heather Fowler
   Clint Frakes
   Sarah Francois
   Amélie Frank
   Amelie Frank
   Alex M. Frankel
   Allie Frazier
   E.L. Freifeld
   M. Frias Frias-May
   Suzanne Frost
   Delia J. Fry
   Elliott Gabay
   Steven Gabriel
   Timothy Gager
   Daniel Gallik
   J Gamble
   Ishmael Garay
   Jerry Garcia
   Daniel Garcia-Black
   Gabriella Garofalo
   Vince Garofalo
   Yvonne Garrett
   Nelson Gary
   Donna Gebron
   Ulrike Gerbig
   Janice Gero
   Ursula T. Gibson
   Rebecca Gimblett
   Tony Gloeggler
   Steve Goldman
   Vesna Goldsworthy
   Melanie Gonzalez
   Jeffrey Graessley
   Allison Grayhurst
   Jeff Green
   Timothy Green
   Jeanie Greensfelder
   Rhoda Greenstone
   Amos Greig
   John Greiner
   John Grey
   Summer Griffiths
   Danielle Grilli
   Brian Grillo
   John Grochalski
   Wendy Grosskopf
   Andrew Grossman
   Ro Gunetilleke
   Kenneth Gurney
   John R. Guthrie
   Debashish Haar
   Erik Haber
   Hedy Habra
   Tresha Faye Haefner
   Matthias Hagedorn
   James Hall
   Tom Hamilton
   David Harrington
   William Harris
   Matt Harris
   Dawnell Harrison
   J. Alana Hauenschild
   Kari J. Hayes
   KJ Hays
   Ann L. Healey
   Jessica Healy
   Eloise Klein Healy
   Jim Heavily
   Dan Hedges
   Paul Hellweg
   Samantha Henderson
   Jack Henry
   David Herrle
   JD Heskin
   Kenneth Hickey
   Jerry Hicks
   Marvin R Hiemstra
   Ed Higgins
   Carlos Hiraldo
   Sherri Hoffman
   Guy Hogan
   Ali Hosseiny
   Dave Houston
   Eric Howard
   Nate Howard
   David Howard
   Bryon D. Howell
   A J Huffman
   Hunter Lee Hughes
   Roger Humes
   Trista Hurley-Waxali
   Elizabeth Iannaci
   Thea Iberall
   Armine Iknadossian
   Gedda Ilves
   Alegria Imperial
   Victor D. Infante
   Victor Infante
   Augustus Invictus
   Susan Irvine
   Alexandra Isacson
   Natalie Itzhaki
   Amber Jacob
   Scott Jacobson
   Larry Jaffe
   Sonika Jaggi
   Emmanuel Jakpa
   Matthew James
   Andrea Janov
   T.A. Jennings
   Ivan Jenson
   Dani Jimenez
   Alex Johnson
   Michael Lee Johnson
   Lois P. Jones
   Tao Jones
   Strider Marcus Jones
   Georgia Jones-Davis
   Jasmin Jordan
   Quentin Josephy
   Liu Jue
   Ruth Juris
   Gene Justice
   Gary Justice
   Pete Justus
   Mikel K
   Scott C. Kaestner
   Sheema Kalbasi
   Peycho Kanev
   Rachel Kann
   Jay Kantor
   Paula Sfier Kattan
   Russ Kazmierczak
   James Keane
   Gretchen Keer
   Aaron Keller
   Collin Kelley
   Kamuran Kelly
   Raud Kennedy
   Bernard Kennedy
   Kathleen Kenny
   Stephen Kerr
   Hari Bhajan Khalsa
   Just Kibbe
   Jerome Kiel
   lalo kikiriki
   Franklin Lafayette King
   Robert S King
   Ashley King
   Sofia Kioroglou
   Rusty Kjarvik
   Kenny Klein
   LeAnne Kline
   Julia Knobloch
   Deborah P Kolodji
   Tracy Koretsky
   Edith Kornfeld
   George Korolog
   Dimitris P. Kraniotis
   Thomas KrÀmer
   Mark Krewatch
   Chris Krueger
   Amanda Krut
   Gerard Kuc
   Christopher Kuhn
   Donna Kuhn
   Len Kuntz
   Craig Kurtz
   Tammy Ho Lai-Ming
   Daniel Lambert
   Anthony Langford
   Donald Langosy
   Ray Lanthier
   Phillip Larrea
   Phillip Larrea
   Wolf Larsen
   Kasandra Larsen
   Ethan Latham
   Lisa LaTourette
   Marie Lecrivain & Laura A. Lionello
   Marianne LaValle-Vincent
   Kevin Lavey
   Judith A. Lawrence
   Eric Lawson
   Richard Leach
   Anne Lecrivain
   Marie Lecrivain
   Noah Lederman
   Pete Lee
   Kevin Patrick Lee
   Emma Lee
   N.M. Leepsa
   Alexandra Leggat
   Laura LeHew
   Gary Lehmann
   Sharmagne Leland-St. John
   Kevin LeMaster
   Michal Lemberger
   Kim Leng
   Roland Lesterin
   Tiffany Lettieri
   P.A. Levy
   Martin Lewis
   Cheyenne Lewis
   Anthony Liccione
   Cynthia Linville
   Laura Lionello
   Zachary Locklin
   Jessica Lopez
   Harold Lorin
   Tess. Lotta
   B.D. Love
   Adam Lowis
   Ron Lucas
   Andrew Lundwall
   Rick Lupert
   Suzan Lustig
   Radomir Luza
   Stosh Machek
   John MacKenna
   Sarah Maclay
   Stefanie Maclin
    Magdalena
   Gary Maggio
   Holly Magill
   Anthony Magistrale
   Marieta Maglas
   Suvi Mahonen
   Donal Mahoney
   Robert Maiolo
   Kelly Ann Malone
   Michael Malota
   Shahé Mankerian
   Angela Consolo Mankiewicz
   Chris Mansell
   H.E. Mantel
   April-May March
   Rick Marlatt
   John Marshall
   Agnes Marton
   Francis Masat
   Hyatt Mason
   Lee Mason
   Anthony Mason
   Johnny Masuda
   Mira N. Mataric
   Ellyn Maybe
   Michelle Mazzetti
   Mary L. Mazzocco
   Ted Mc Carthy
   Austin McCarron
   Terry McCarty
   Paul McConnell
   Brendan McCormack
   Deborah McCreath-Akbar
   Catfish McDaris
   Bray McDonald
   Karen J McDonnell
   Matt McGee
   Allen McGill
   Afric McGlinchey
   Terance James McGunigle
   Cat Angelique McIntire
   David McIntire
   david mclean
   Isobel McQueen
   Fernando Meisenhaulter
    Mephistopheles
   Corey Mesler
   Melissa Michaels
    Mike the Poet
   Robert John Miller
   Scott Miller
   Richard Lee Miller
   Hany Haggag Abdl Mobdy
   Richard Modiano
   William Mohr
   Sonnet Mondal
   Jason Monios
   Leslie Monsour
   Amanda Montei
   Patrick Mooney
   Carl Moore
   Greggory Moore
    Albert Lee Moran
   A.J. Morelli
   Christopher Mulrooney
   Frank Mundo
   Barbara-Marie Mundt
   Augusto Munoz
   Mark Murphy
   Craig Murray
   Kristine Ong Muslim
   JL Nathan
   Nimah Nawwab
   Leslie Maryann Neal
   Jason Neese
   Raghab Nepal
   Robbi Nester
   Mindy Nettifee
   Martina Reisz Newberry
   Beth Escott Newcomer
   Peter Nezafati
   Scott Nichols
   keith niles
   Dave Nordling
   Aire Celeste Norell
   Steve Norwood
   Laura Nye
   Toti O'Brien
   Charlotte O'Brien
   Suzanne O'Connell
   Katie O'Loughlin
   Peter O'Niell
   Tom O'Reilly
   Akor Emmanuel Oche
   A.J. Odasso
   Rita Odeh
   Kirsten Ogden
   Daniel Olivas
   Maurice Oliver
   Marc Olmstead
   Philip ONeil
   Nzingah Oniwosan
   Chika Onyenezi
   Sergio Ortiz
   David Ishaya Osu
   Scott Thomas Outlar
   Holly Painter
   Lizbeth Palma
   Heather Palmer
   Greg Patrick
   Miss Natalie Patterson
   David E. Patton
   Tim Peeler
   Steve Pelcman
   Angel Perales
   Alice Pero
   Angela J. Perry
   Helen Peterson
   Brenda Petrakos
   Adam Phillips
   James G Piatt
   Rebecca Pierce
   Gareth Pike
   James Pinkerton
   Rob Plath
   Kushal Poddar
   Contributors to poeticdiversity
   Meg Pokrass
   Traian Pop Traian
   Bethany W Pope
   Wayne E. Popelka
   Elisha Porot
   Adrian Potter
   Ren Powell
   Frank Praeger
   Kristena Prater
   Luke Prater
   Shannon Prince
   Stephany Prodromides
   Hattie Quinn
   Octavio Quintanilla
   Beverly J. Raffaele
    Raindog
   Catherine Rajca
   Steve Ramirez
   Mauricio Alejandro Ramos
   Vishnu Rao
   Ingrid Rattay
   James Rauff
   Kasey Ray
   Bili Redd
   Brian Redfern
   Marie Rennard
   Luivette Resto
   E.W. Richardson
   John Richmond
   Francisca Ricinski-Marienfeld
   Lillian Ridgeway
   Kevin Ridgeway
   Dee Rimbaud
   Elijiah Rios
   Cat Risinger
   Ariel Robello
   Ebi Robert
   John D Robinson
   Paula Rodriguez
   Nydia Rojas
   Daniel Romo
   Emily Rose
   Rina Rose
   Diana Rosen
   Poet-broker Rosenthal
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   Cody Rukasin
   Cody Rukasin
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   David W. Rushing
   Maryann Russo
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   April Salzano
   Bryan Sanders
   Lisa Marie Sandoval
   Cecile Sarruf
    Sasparella
   Ethan Sassouni
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   Rati Saxena
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   Ken Scott
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   Anthony Seidman
   Oleg Semonov
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   Jack Allen Shafer
   Dahn Shaulis
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   June Shiitake
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   Rishan Singh
   Durlabh Singh
   Kalpna Singh-Chitnis
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   Knute Skinner
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   Lee Sloca
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   Danielle Smith
   Clinton Smith
    smzang
   Kate Soto
   Ghetto Speare
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   Alex Stolis
   Karr Stratynberg
   Kevin Stricke-9
   Keith Stump
   Daniel Suffian
   Annette Sugden
   J. C. Sullivan
   Mani Suri
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   John Talbird
   Sister Taxi Hopscotch
   Barbara A. Taylor
   Jonathan Taylor
   Mark Taylor
   Allen Taylor
   Paul Kareem Tayyar
   Alene Terzian
    The Unarmed Man
   A. Thiagarajan
   G. Murray Thomas
   Lynne Thompson
   David Thornbrugh
   Kari Thune
   Sarah Thursday
   Ilona Timoszuk
   Tim Tipton
    TJungle
   Chrys Tobey
    tolbert
   Imani Tolliver
   A. TOMIC
   Anthony Torchia
   Mary Torregrossa
   Zev Torres
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   Davide Trame
   Tri Tran
   Ryan Tranquilla
   Alain Marcel Treadaway
   Pedro Trevino-Ramirez
   Ben Trigg
   Paul Tristram
   Maja Trochimczyk
    Troy
   The TruthHearse
   Tatiana Tulskaya
   Yelena and Roman Tunkel
   John Turi
   Danny Uebbing
   Amy Upham
   Amy Uyematsu
   Philomena van Rijswijk
   Gene van Troyer
   Wanda Vanhoy Smith
   Brenda Varda
   Luis Rubio Vargas
   Carmen Vega
   Ms. Veronica
   Papa Vic
   Clee Villasor
   Ajise Vincent
   Curran D. Vinson
   Jason Visconti
   Anca Vlasopolos
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   Claire Walker
   toren wallace
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   Sharieff Walters
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   Brian Watson
   Lafayette Wattles
   Charlie Weber
   Ellen Webre
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   Viola Weinberg
   Florence Weinberger
   Desmond Weindorf
   Cindy Weinstein
   Denise R. Weuve
   Rev. Dave Wheeler
   Megwynn White
   Kelley White
   Leigh White
   J.T. Whitehead
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   Claire Williams
   Patrick Williamson
   Martin Willitts, Jr
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   Amye Wilson
   Jessica Wilson
   Alicia Winski
   Tyler Joseph Wiseman
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   Terry Wolverton
   Nina Womack
   Seth Woolf
   Kirby Wright
   Gianna Wurzl
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   Julie Yi
   Gregory T. Young
   Britney Young
   Omar ZahZah
   Mariano Zaro
   Michael Zeltser
    
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Christiane Conesa-Bostock
April 2007
   

 

127 avenue des Fr?res Lumi?re

The oldest resident of Maison Saint Charles died this morning but it is still birthdays as usual on this last Thursday of the month. I have just arrived in France from Australia, and my first visit is to my mother whom I have not seen for two years.
For once, I did not get lost. I got off the bus near Le Gros Caillou, a strikingly large formation dating from the ice age and unearthed, in 1892, when the ficelle, a funicular, was built to link the peninsula to the hills of La Croix Rousse. From there, one has the most breathtaking view of Lyon, the confluence of the two main rivers, the Rhne and the Sane, the Renaissance houses, the Cathedral of Saint-Jean and Fourvire, the Roman amphitheatres and the Museum of Antiquities. It is in this quarter that my mother was born.
The gates of Maison Saint-Charles, 14 rue Maisiat, are wrought iron, large and heavy as they only are in France. A bell rings. I am apprehensive and overjoyed. I push the glass window of the former Convent and the ghosts in coifs and habits pass me by. The Director welcomes me politely and warmly, and I am reassured that my mother is well looked after.
I am shown to the dining room and I see her, my mother; frail, fragile, stern, and serious, celebrating her eighty-fourth birthday. Her blond hair has turned grey all of a sudden; it is straight and thin. She is wearing the cardigan she knitted with the Australian wool bought twenty years ago during her visit to Hobart. She has sewn the cloth badge "Australia" on the left side, above her heart. Her white blouse, now too big, contrasts with the colour of her face, pale, but almost yellow. When she sees me, she smiles with relief that I have made it safely back to Lyon and calls me to the empty seat next to her. I notice her hands which resemble more and more a Huon Pine statue, twisted but beautiful.
The nurses and staff of this Retirement Home have decorated the large dining-room with drawings and garlands, made with love by the young pupils of a neighbouring primary school as a sign of generational respect. When they agreed to adopt a grand-parent, the children pledged to give some of their free time to bring joy to their old friends. They have lovingly made gifts and the birthday boys and girls open them, with a lack of enthusiasm, knowing that, once again they will receive a school-made photo frame which announces the swift passing of time. Chantal Goya's rendition of Voulez-vous danser Grand-mre ... is playing... Tout comme au bon vieux temps , Quand vous aviez vingt ans .... and they hand in word sheets (word-sheets) so that everyone can join in, inciting (encouraging) the guests to come on the dance floor to share in the happy times. The dancers, like malformed children, robot-like, put one foot forward and take two timid steps to the left, to the right, back, forward and one two three four, one two three four... enjoy yourself like when you were twenty. Allez Monsieur Mathieu, pick your partner... Allez Madame Dubois don't be shy... and one two three four, one two three four... oui c'est a, a big smile... one two... and the thirty year old social worker cum DJ continues her waltz of encouragements which remain resolutely un-followed.
They sing Joyeux Anniversaire to the four January-born residents who look untouched by the felicity and the well-intentioned but nonetheless, fake joviality. I take one small bite of chocolate cake and a flood of tears, unexpected and unstoppable, makes me choke as I hurry outside to the park covered with snow. I sit on the wooden bench and I cannot stop this glacier of memories.
My father sneaked in, a box of presents offered by the his employer, the firm of Compteurs Garniers. Every year on the 24th of December, my father would enter the house quietly, at exactly 6pm. He would try to dodge the flurry of little feet, and with a big smile, proud to be bringing in the loot, he would go straight to the dining room and disappear with my mother to hide the box.
We always took great delight, my sister and I, in decorating the freshly cut fir tree. The needles pricked our fingers as we fixed the real candles to the end of each branch, inhaling the smell of the dense and dank forest. In the meantime, my brothers had taken out the box from the top of the wardrobe, and arranged the brown crib paper into hills and valleys, and then placed the Virgin Mary, Joseph, and the Three Wise Men with the animals. The little wax Baby Jesus would have to wait till the following morning to be reunited with the rest of the family. Cotton wool, taken out of the iodine-smelling pharmacy-cupboard, hung from the hill top to complete the scene.
That Christmas - the one that was the beginning of my non-believing in Pre Nol since I had caught my father with his special box and seen in the cellar the dolly's bed my brother Joseph had spent hours making for me - my parents had been given an enormous goose. She may not have laid the golden egg but she was full of promises. There she lay, in all her glory of white feathers, like a dancer from the Moulin Rouge, ready for the transformation. First, she was boiled to make the plucking easier; then, each feather was pulled from its cavity. We watched with horror and admiration the making of a map on the naked, whitish skin, blue rivers, craters and elevations.
When my mother began the autopsy with a sharp knife, her hand assured and confident, the stench of warm flesh and offal became overbearing, but the little soldiers that we were remained transfixed, paralyzed by our mother's callousness, wondering how she could be so cruel and gleeful. She seemed to enjoy the challenge. She wore a flowery apron which she had sewn herself and her blond hair softened her face. Her blue eyes lost in the memory of her home, a farm where, when she was growing up, this type of killing was an everyday routine.
The time had come for our mother to take out the liver, and just as a surgeon holds a heart to be transplanted, she examined the yellow fatty liver and told us how the farmers around Toulouse force-fed their geese with grain using a huge metal funnel in order to obtain super-sized livers. We could not comprehend how such cruelty could exist but, on the other hand, we thought that the birds were lucky not to go hungry.
"The liver is to make the pt de foie gras my darlings, and I am going to prepare one that you will never forget."
And mesmerized, aware that a sprinkle of magic and love would be used, we listened attentively to the next steps to be taken. On Christmas Day, we would eat this golden, crispy fowl garnished with a stuffing of chestnuts pure mixed with cream and bacon. The goose would be served with cardoons, vegetables similar in appearance to artichokes. My father grew his own, in his plot. Like an artist, he had gauged the precise time to remove the leafy vegetables from under the bags which had allowed them to whiten. They were served with a roux sauce. It was unforgettable.
Nothing of the goose was to be wasted. The feather down would be used to refill the double bed mattress and we would help our mother with the pointy circular needles to sew back the striped heavy linen. Our fingers would be pricked and tiny drops of blood would collide with the whiteness of the down.
My father had collected the snails from the garden. They were safe to eat as no weed killer had been used. He had imprisoned the gastropods in a Hessian bag, poured sea salt on them and tied the entrance to their freedom, letting them to disgorge in the dark. While my father would boil them on the gas stove, my brothers would clean the shells readying them for the fillings of garlic, butter and finely chopped parsley.
We would start our Christmas Eve Rveillon after the midnight mass at Saint Maurice's. My father, a non Churchgoer, would nonetheless, walk us to the church, past the Monument for The Resistance Fighters of the Second World War, Place de Monplaisir, past the mansion of the Lumire brothers who had invented the first colour film, past our primary school where boys and girls were segregated. We would stop in front of shop windows and stare back at the pig heads which, adorned with crowns of thyme and laurel, were daring us to eat them. Chaplets of salamis, andouillettes, and sausages hung over the Christmas delicacies. We stopped in front of the brightly lit ptisseries, overstocked with rows of chocolates ranging in colours from rich white to deep black, contemplating the enormous chocolate Father Christmas and his elves which stood over artificial snow. Even the bookshops were decorated with mountains of books and toys and we drooled over such prodigality.
We skipped through Paradise in our colourful hand-knitted scarves, hats and mittens; threw snowballs, slid in the snow. We crossed ourselves at the entrance of the church, sucking in the warm air perfumed with incense, prayed and sang, Mon beau sapin, O Sainte Nuit, shed a tear or two, moved by the beauty of the human-scale crib where a real baby boy was soundly asleep. But our mind was somewhere else.
We ran home, knowing that a warm, extravagant meal was awaiting us. My mother had prepared her famous pike quenelles in a light tomato sauce with button mushrooms and un-pitted green olives. She had baked the traditional bche de Nol, (Christmas log) with my older sister's help. I knew their secret even though I had been too young to be admitted into their sisterhood circle. It was all in the rolling of the cooked pastry in a wet towel and the filling in, by expert hands, with chocolate and cream. There was always, on top, a small plastic wood-cutter holding an axe, holy leaves and mistletoe.
We always went to bed having placed, with anticipation, in front of the black marble chimney, eighteen shoes, hoping that in the morning they would have been magically filled with mandarins, chocolate, fruit-jelly or sugar papillottes and presents. Early in the morning, the youngest would be followed down the stairs by a gaggle of expectant siblings.
As my hands and body start to freeze, I re-enter the dining room where residents are shuffling to the rhythm of the same waltz, eyes lost in memories. The word sheets are being collected, and the plates, cups, and saucers are being passed to the end of the table. I help my mother to stand up and I am sad to tower over her, realising that I have become her protector, and her guide back to her room, where no doubt, to the collection of photographs will have been added several baby portraits. And, as she slowly pushes her walking frame to the lift, she turns her face to me and asks where I had gone during the birthday party. I reply without hesitation, "Home," and as the doors of the lift close very, very slowly, I wish I could climb with my mother, into Doctor Who's Tardis to be transported in space and time to our home, 127 Avenue des Frres Lumire.


copyright 2006 Christiane Conesa-Bostock