Never Did Say So
After Dolly Parton’s To Daddy
We jumped a red-eye to France to celebrate
a decade of marriage, and I prayed
to love him as much as I loved Paris.
I willed myself to shine like the Seine
through the clock at the Orsay, willed myself
to stop, at least once a day, and kiss him
along the Champs-Élysées. I willed my body
to unfurl like an accordion in his hands, to
murmur & bellow the song of Le Marais.
But no matter how I unreeled the filmstrip
of the we I willed us to be, his face remained
obscured in every image, the lens trained on me.
Not that I said so in a language he understood.
I walked ahead and switched to French
when we deplaned, rendered him mute
with sentences he didn’t ask me to translate—
Sil vous plait, pouvez-vous nous aider?
Nous sommes perdus.
He believed I was fluent enough
to speak for both of us and didn’t think
to learn any words for himself.
Content to nod and follow, he didn’t
blame me when I got us lost on the way
to our last dinner on the Rue de Soleil
because the driver had heard Rue Désolée
and drove the wrong way across town, an irony
that encapsulated our lives—the two of us
stuck in a moving vehicle, miles between
sunny and sorry, a mistake that tripled
our fare and cost much more than we dreamed.
I apologized, but he laughed because France
still ran on Francs and he still had enough
patience to forgive me anything. I nodded
when the driver offered to appease us
with un peu de musique américain and slid
Dolly Parton’s Greatest Hits into the cassette deck.
My husband took my hand then, and confessed
how relieved he was to know the words,
how happy he was to be going home.
Such a good omen, he said, but he wasn’t listening.
No omen, was Dolly, but an oracle, a prophecy
sent for me, a warning about the fate of a woman
who never did speak of what she felt, who faked
her grin and forgot her face, who willed herself to love
the noose of her wedding ring. The last verse
told of everything she never said to those she fled—
how her longing was vaster than silence, how she bolted
the door behind her, how she never did say goodbye.