Mother, I couldn’t sleep, and I was reading about Mauritius.
You couldn’t sleep, and you were reading about Mauritius when I called
at three AM on a Tuesday. We are often in the same place.
You read to me from the book on your lap
like story hour in nursery school.
I saw you lift the book, beside your face, to share the illustrations.
Whatever made me call you saw you in a wicker chair.
I was chasing genealogy that night. I was probably looking for more.
It was after your father died. That is still so hard for you.
A great-ancestor took me there. I don’t remember how you came.
I imagined our forebear: martial garb and epaulettes,
the jungle, the Frenchness. I think Henri Rousseau.
Mother, you read to me of lagoons.
There were people who looked just like us
between banana leaves and ferns, three hundred years ago.
They knew everything we know about each other,
and they sported some beautiful headdress:
half powdered wigs, half Carmen Miranda’s hat.
34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 43
ISLE DE FRANCE
TO ELECT A FISH
ANNIE FINDS A WAY
HELEN REED LEHMAN
COLLECT CALL FROM AUNT ANN