French Lessons

Ronnie Hess


The redheaded boy in the classe de quatrième

Eighth grade — wants to know

If Americans think French people are strange.

I look perplexed.  He explains the French eat snails and
frog’ legs, braised vegetables and smelly cheese.

I say Americans are no different.

I make a list of foods on the board.


At the Piscine du Carousel, the pool

near the park with sycamores,

I watch the other swimmers.

They are not like American swimmers.

They are skinny, have more body hair,

wear abbreviated bathing suits, smell of

oranges and cigarettes.  They do not lap swim.

They crawl and stop.  They hang out along edges,

bump into you, or dive to the bottom then

swim the length of the pool in one breath.


I see them down below, in the pale blue chlorinated water,

kicking their legs out, pulling them back in, like frogs.








Ronnie Hess is a journalist whose work has appeared in national and regional newspapers and magazines. Her poetry has been featured in the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Calendars; Cup of Poems and a Side of Prose; and is forthcoming from Wisconsin People and Ideas Magazine, Poetica, and Albatross. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.