When you consider that I took French classes for seven years between middle school and my freshman year of college, I really ought to be bi-lingual.
If I did anything else on a daily basis for seven years, I would surely be good at it. But French and I were never friends… or shall I say amis. See, I had to look that up just now and it’s a basic vocabulary word. I do remember one word though because I thought it was comical when I learned it as a 14 year old — the word portefeuille. It means ‘wallet’ and should be pronounced like this: port – foyee (with pursed lips and a strong a French accent). French teachers never reached me, in part because I hid from them.
I would bungle through France. I’d be the kind of mess that’s made worse because I should have someclue how to communicate. Like how the squealing of a violin is worse when the kid playing has been in lessons for a few years. She really ought to be better and people listen with disappointed furrowed brows. This in mind, aside from my occasional reference to my empty port-foyee, I speak English. Not much linguistic variety.
But earlier this week, I was spoken to in a different way and resonated. It was so striking that it sent me reeling. It was so stunningly clear that it sliced straight through my filters. Someone found me.
It was as if Jane Kenyon walked into my mind’s living room, sat down next to me and told me how I tick. All without my asking. I didn’t even know she was coming over.
The cadence of her poems, the unfussy metaphors, her wineglass weary of holding wine and her pear that spoils from the inside out — these things mesmerize me.
I am not going to list out a bunch of her poems here; that’s not why I’m writing this. The point is that I’ve experienced a “You too?” moment with someone who died in 1995 but was talking to me all along. The notes that Jane Kenyon hit reverberate brilliantly with the language I speak inwardly but rarely outwardly.
I am saddened that she’s gone. I’m saddened that she was so often so sad. But much more lasting is that she was able to talk with someone like me, hiding out where she once hid.