The first time I visited my aunt in Paris,
I still lived near Geneva.
She perched in a tiny studio
atop an old stone building on a busy boulevard.
There I drank from a bowl for the first time.
She had a cat and a rocking chair.
I thought, why would anyone choose a city
over the splendor of the Alps?
The first time I visited my grandparents in Tarragona
on my own, I was barely six.
My grandmother offered me a unique and plain cookie
of the kind I still haven’t encountered anywhere else
and uttered the magic word, galleta.
That is the first word I learned with her.
We watched a game on TV, el juego de la oca,
and these became the next words.
This is how, enveloped in unconditional love,
I discovered the language of Cervantes
and of God, as it is called.
From Life in Suspension, forthcoming from Tupelo Press
Hélène Cardona is the author of Dreaming My Animal Selves (Salmon Poetry 2013) and The Astonished Universe (Red Hen Press 2006). She holds a Master’s in American Literature from the Sorbonne, taught at Hamilton College and LMU, and received fellowships from the Goethe Institut and the Universidad Internacional de Andalucía. She translated the Lawrence Bridges film Muse of Fire for the NEA, What We Carry by Dorianne Laux, and Eloise Klein Healy into French, and the poetry of her father José Manuel Cardona, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Aloysius Bertrand and Jean-Claude Renard into English. She is also an actor (Chocolat) and dream analyst.