More Beautiful in France

© 2001 Katherine Williams
"More Beautiful in France"
appears in The Poetry Society of
South Carolina Yearbook (2006)
Charleston, SC:

Bel Canto refers to the way people sing in European opera.
Women are more beautiful in France—it happens the second your plane enters French airspace. It is because Frenchmen believe every female is enchanting. In France we are lovely, working the crossword, brushing bread crumbs from our chins, dashing out bedraggle-headed to grab the bus. We beguile, as we choose among eggplants or peel the paper label off a Stella. In France, the homeliest woman can stop time. Even when we stink, Frenchmen think of premium aged Roquefort, the raw purple onions of spring, or the crumbling letters they still treasure from their first prostitute.

The sight of a solitary woman in the cafe engenders pity in the French-man’s throat. He has no choice but sit next to her, ask her name, and whether she enjoys the films of Buñuel as much as he. She indulges his helpless chivalry, puts her textbook aside, smiles, offers him a croissant, and says, Not as much as those of Cocteau. And she says, What about those ravens that blackened the sky today while the steeple bells rang. And, We know how seashells echo rushing waves, but it must have been the haunting wail in the whelks of Crete that gave rise to Bel Canto. And, Pardon me, my kind Monsieur, but I must be going.

The ache in his throat gets worse as he watches her rise and walk. He would offer to escort her to her rendez-vous, but these are modern times.