Because I make the big bucks fooling around
with words, in France sometimes I like to say
"Sylvia Plath" instead of "s'il vous plait,"
as when I open the door for Barbara and say,
"Après-vous, Sylvia Plath!" But yesterday
the lady in the boulangerie asked me what I wanted,
and I said, "Une baguette, Sylvia Plath! Crap . . . "
Before I move to France, I have to help
my friend from France buy his first American automobile,
and naturally he wants everything on his car
to be just like mine, right down to the manatee on the tag,
for which I pay an extra seventeen dollars that
goes into some kind of special fund for endangered species.
He says, "You have zuh elephant of zuh sea
on your matriculation?" Tag, I say, tag!
And manatee! which is a Native American word meaning, uh,
l'éléphant de mer, and no, you don't want it,
because we're trying to save money here, remember?
We go over this several times, yet when we are in
the tag office and I am filling out a form to have his title
sent to my address, I hear Antoine say,
"I can have zuh elephant of zuh sea
on my matriculation?" to a clerk who's got this grin
on her face like she's either seeing God
or having an aneurysm, and I can see she loves it,
she's going to tell the women she goes fishing with
on Lake Jackson about this foreign fellow,
nice as he could be, who comes into
the office the other day, and says, "Elephant of
zuh sea," and "Matriculation," and they'll say,
"Wanda, hush! You're scaring the bass!"
and so she'll tell her husband, who will say,
"Uh-huh! Any more of these potatoes?"