Rolling Stone Papa

Rolling Stone Papa
Isabella David

When I was a very little girl—une toute petite fille—
I would learn French, I would. Conjunctive, consumptive,
fat yet frail, mousy, serious browed-thing, cher Papa: teach me.

My papa was not a rolling stone who gathers no moss.
He was a rolling stone who gathered speed and took
his earthly goods along with him. My first lesson: the inertia to flee.

He did love us, my mother swears, why once when I was one and
tottered to him, mute and obeisant, so desperate for him
I would cry tears mythic in their outpouring, endless, Sisyphean

tears, pour toi, Papa. You gave me Babar books before I could read.
I declared myself le roi that day on the crest of the world,
when my tricycle took the breeze and bore me into flight,

down the hill. You didn’t care for such a brazen bit of DNA
spliced from you and her—a Jew. I was half you and learned
my Ah, Bay, Says and hated half my self. As you wished.

At lunch after all those intervening years forgot, so grown up we were.
No more tears. No slaps, slammed phones, stony ears. No recriminations.
Polite on Park Avenue at your club, where I wore white without a slip.

“What a slip that is!” You sneered and made me take the servant’s stairs.
After a lunch of salad nicoise and café au lait and your general
declarations of non-love: “I love you because you are my daughter,

and I must.” I was no king Babar or any king. Half-naked in my thin
dress by the subway stairs, we paused to speak of it: how inappropriate it
was, my shoes, too. The blues. Mais oui…you told me I was your daughter
and you must love me as God does. Like you were God!
And how you loved humanity as a general thing en masse, like ants
you chose not to crush because your Sufi teacher once said:

“Life is in everything.” I understood why Atheists loathe Him then.
To be loved as an ant. And those years I studied French, tried to stifle
that half of me you, odious Dieu, cursed—the American, glowering trop juive:

loud-laughing, left-fork holding side of me—when the truth is
(the truth!) you loved your reflection in me. God tells the
Sommelier I am his daughter not his date. He bows and says:

“I know, monsieur, she has your voice. You have the same voice.”
Indeed. So listen when I speak Papa. Mon amour. Mon
chagrin, mon passé, mon present
—you are the half of me

I will obliterate. When our lunch came, it came a little too late.
The food was cold, gelid on the plate. Pour toi, Papa: I came,
I saw, by these same laws: fraternite, egalite, liberte…

Convenient catchwords, mon situationiste, ex-anarchiste,
Park-Avenuiste
(how convenient creeds have been I see.)
Oh by all the gods, I agree: you have not, cannot conquer me.

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