Au Revoir Mes Elèves
The ninth graders arrive to French class,
smiles stretched on rubber-banded teeth,
backpacks stiff and notebooks empty.
“Bonjour mes élèves,” I start the lesson
with greetings, introductions, and goodbyes––
opening a crevice in their brains, prying
and prodding to wedge in “J’aime les frites”
among texts, Snapchats, Instagram, and tests
for English, math, and science proficiency.
Each year, I lose some to art, to AP physics,
or custody moves. The others continue, add
vocabulary, learn songs, conjugate verbs,
and try brie, tartines, and chocolat chaud.
After four years, the fissure expands to a chasm,
the poetry of Victor Hugo and art of Monet
pushing against the walls with plus-que-parfait
and conditonnel passé tenses, cartoons, and film.
By June of their senior year, the crack
becomes a passage, a fjord through which
they steer a sturdy vessel, and I wave
a hankerchief from the shore, unsure
of their return, but sure of their navigation.
Kim King © 2015