The fire at Notre Dame Paris
shocks many folks throughout the world
among whom I feel heightened woe.
I’ve often been to Paris and
I even lived there for a time.
When there I spoke in French to folks;
but none took me to be someone
who’d used their tongue from birth. I was,
the baker said, from Germany.
I was gene-wise; but Belgians taught
me how to speak their kind of French.
In it I defended my Ph.D.!
Thereafter I spoke English like
Americans are wont to do
and recreated a French self
whenever back in France where I
could still retrieve my “German tongue.”
Increasingly, however, this
did not suffice with people who
had modified their daily speech
while never once consulting me.
Thus humbled I can’t even guess
how well I would communicate
with “Francophones” in Africa
where I’ve never been — although I spoke
with ‘Quebecois’ in Canada.
So my caring about the ‘cathedrale,’
though deep, is based on faulty French.
Edmund F. Byrne, 4/15/2019
(day of fire, Cathedrale de Notre Dame)