To Switzerland with Love, from the Watchmaker’s Wife

Well, this is a pleasant first! When Literary Editor, Patricia Linderman from Talesmag, asked if I might have something they could publish about life in Switzerland, this poem came straight to mind; I’m so happy it has finally found a good home and — as you’ll see in the explanation and photos at the end – that I have, too, along with my personal Swiss Watchmaker.

To Switzerland with Love, from the Watchmaker’s Wife
as published in Talesmag, June 14, 2019

 Dear Helvetica,

I think I’ve finally figured us out. It took long enough!
Three decades, more or less. I know, I know,
you being the quiet type means I have to go first. And I will.
But only because I’m so in love with you.
How’d THAT happen? you wonder.
Well. Since you asked, first of all,
you have the sexiest watchmakers in the world, but there’s more:

Because instead of scissors, you gave my kids knitting needles
in Kindergarten to punch along dotted lines so they’d learn
precision, perseverance, and patience.
Because you made them walk to school.
Because you made them come home for lunch.
Because you made them walk back to school.
Because you have people with The Secret whom I can call for free,
and they’ll make 32 warts on the sole of a kid’s foot disappear.
Just like that.

It took some getting used to, but I’ve learned to love the peace and quiet,
that Sundays are sacred — no matter what your religion;
thank you for insisting that I NOT mow the lawn, or vacuum,
or shop on Sundays, and for teaching me that naps and watching
the grass grow can be forms of communal prayer.

Because you’re the heart of peace processes worldwide
but your citizens can rarely name their president.
You’re neutral but have enough bunkers for the whole country
to hunker down if need be. And those army knives rock.

Because you have the only direct democracy — and the creamiest
chocolate – on the planet, and even though over half of you
have guns, shootings are far out of the ordinary.
Did I mention that your watchmakers are the hottest?
Everything keeps on ticking, no matter what — right on time
because of your dashing watchmakers. Good thing, too, since you expect
everyone to be right on time … except for cocktails,
for which you’re always 15 minutes late, exactly, which is only possible
thanks to those clever watchmaking party animals. Right on! Right on!
What I wouldn’t do for a blissful kiss from a Swiss Watchmaker!
God, they crack me up. Now, where was I?

Because you’re tolerant and inclusive, even though one in four
of your residents is foreign — including me and mine, once upon a time.
Because, although you didn’t need me to teach you French,
you asked me to teach you English and taught me how to do it well.
Because I love teaching you English. And thank you for tolerating my French.
You, somehow, manage to communicate despite
having four languages; perhaps that’s because you demand respect
from everybody, and for everybody. You even expect the world to know
that CH* stands for Switzerland and that S is for some other country.

You have multicolored carpets of Alpine flowers up there, beneath snowy peaks,
palm trees down here, on the Montreux Riviera, and watchmakers in both
who get me going — keep me going —my time would stop without them.

You’re a 5-star country, Switzerland. I get you, I dig you, and am forever
grateful to you for my personal Swiss watchmaker, who learned from you
how to create gloriousness out of each precious beating minute of our lives
we’ve created within you, and who still really knows
how to    make     me     tick.

With love from the watchmaker’s wife,

Elizabeth Boquet
*CH, the abbreviation for Switzerland, stands for Confoederatio Helvetica

Author’s Note: On July 22, 1989, it all made perfect sense. After ten years of battling French (more on that here), I’d finally won the war. With a fresh MA (French) from Middlebury College in Paris, I was on an island in Maine, USA, marrying a Belgian French-speaking Swiss-trained watchmaker whom I’d met in Spain two years earlier. As one does.

 By August that year, I was a happy bride living and job-hunting, in Bienne/Biel, Switzerland — known as a bi-lingual (French-German) city. Only, my neighbors didn’t speak a word of French. Or English. Neither did the laundry machine repairman, or the plumber, or most people I encountered. I found myself illiterate, once again. Oh, and that hard-earned diploma? Well. In the USA, it, coupled with a secondary teaching certificate from the fine State of Maryland, got you a job teaching French in a snap. For some reason, however, the Swiss didn’t seem keen on having one of their national languages taught with my personal twist — an American accent.

 To make a 30-year-long story even longer, the Swiss are known to take time to appreciate – and, fair enough, it can take some time for the Swiss to embrace others. In my case, it took about 30 years but, somewhere along the way, my husband and I grew to appreciate Switzerland and its quirky ways — so much so that we wanted to become a part of it. Fortunately for us, the feeling was mutual and the Swiss kindly accepted my husband and me into the fold. With whopping gratitude for the all paths and people who lead me to Switzerland – and kept me there, I dedicate this poem to my personal watchmaker, Jean-François Boquet.


Elizabeth and Jean-François Boquet
Wedding on Heart Island, Maine, USA, 1989


30 years later, Swiss Citizens, in Lausanne, Switzerland

 

Road Trip Abecedarian

NaPoWriMo, April 19, 2019: “…Today, I’d like to challenge you to write an abecedarian poem – a poem in which the word choice follows the words/order of the alphabet. You could write a very strict abecedarian poem, in which there are twenty-six words in alphabetical order, or you could write one in which each line begins with a word that follows the order of the alphabet…”  The names of the animals for this poem came from a list written by my family – JF, Olivia and Alex — to pass the time on a road trip years ago.

This may sound strange — but what would you do
if you came back home and discovered a zoo?
We sat in the driveway – all were tongue-tied.
The house sure looked different — but no one knew why.

I climbed on the bench for a peek inside….
You. can’t. imagine. but you can give it a try!
I’ll try to describe it, one sight at a time,
in alphabetic order — but not rhyme:

Actual anteaters aspirating alfalfa sprouts
Bouncing baboons buttering bananas
Crocodiles chewing caramels — continuously
Dehydrated donkeys drinking daiquiris
Egalitarian eagles egging everyone
Flamingos flouring flopping fish
Greedy gorillas gobbling grapes
Happy hyenas heaving honey
Iconic iguanas icing ice cream
Jaguars juggling jellies
Keen kangaroos kicking kiwis
Leopards licking liquorice ladders
Mad monkeys munching maggoty mangos
Nifty newts nibbling nuts
Orang-utans overtly opening Oreos
Proper porcupines picking pickles
Quivering quail quacking-up quinoa
Roman rhinos revelling in ravioli
Sleepy sloths supping sushi
Tigers teething on t-bones
Uakari unsettling upside-down-cake
Vultures eviscerating vanilla beans
Walruses watering waffles with wine
X-ray tetras exhaling xeres
Yaks yodelling “Yummy yam yogurt, yoo—hoo!”
Zebras zapping zucchini ziti

Now you believe me? Just what would you do
if you came home and discovered a zoo?

 

Possible Thoughts of a Notre Dame Security Guard, April 17, 2019

NaPoWriMo Prompt 17 April 2019:  “…Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that presents a scene from an unusual point of view …”  The Forest is the nickname for the wooden frame of Notre Dame’s roof — an immense intricate lattice of ancient wood. More info on it in this NYT article here.

Possible Thoughts of a Notre Dame Security Guard, April 17, 2019

Maybe, if we hadn’t searched so hard
all morning for evil: lined everyone up,
first searched their eyes, then checked
their pockets, sacks, and backpacks

for means of destruction, signs of meanness,
maybe, just maybe, we could have felt
that elemental fear — our ancestors’ fear
of fire — instead of our fear of the other.

Maybe we would have wondered if we might
be looking in all the wrong places and checked
into the Forest, like those who stood guard
up there, for hundreds of years, with their fear.

Elegy for the Prisoners in My Study

Much fun to have this poem published by California’s Las Positas College in their anthology, Havik: The Las Positas College Journal of Arts and Literature (Spring 2019)

Elegy for the Prisoners in My Study

To get to my desk, I shuffle across parquet
made of pine trees who once swayed their days away
in faraway forests before they were stripped
naked, sliced up and slapped with varnish.

To sit at my desk, I plunk into a wicker chair
whose reeds once shilly-shallied in the breeze
somewhere balmy before they were ripped up and
water-boarded until they’d conform into appropriate shape.

To write on my desk, my glass desk, sand stretched
some sunny expanse tickled by wild waves before
it was kidnapped and cremated into transparent flatness
on which I put pencil to paper. Paper. Pencil. More trees…

I’ve taken many prisoners to create poetry.
May the trees, and reeds, and sand forgive me.
May I honor them each time I forge my way through
this forest to sit by the shore in the reeds and write.

Reverse Musical Chairs

“Reverse Musical Chairs” was published by Stoneboat Literary Journal (April 2019)

Sundays at noon
for years
at my mother’s table with eight chairs
the seven of us sat.
We’d take our usual seats
and there was always room
for another.

That winter
the six of us struggled
to find our spots at the same table
among the eight original chairs
despite my father’s permanent absence
leaving room for two.

This afternoon
the eight chairs remain
waiting round the same table.
There are only five of us left.
We search in desperation
but my mother took the music with her;
no one can find a seat.

NaPoWriMo 2019

Long live NaPoWriMo days! Callooh! Callay!

But before I get all mimsy, here’s the thing: NaPoWriMo’s prompts have inspired some of my best poems — ten of last year’s have been published (or are forthcoming) and three others tempted some slithy toves but, because I had left “an electronic trail by publishing them” on my blog, were ultimately refused. ‘Twas brillig. So, this year, I shall shun this frumious Bandersnatch and take my vorpal sword in hand off screen.

In the meantime, thank you for visiting my blog. I look forward to hopping around other participants’ sites and I promise to come galumphing back and post my published poems here, as soon as the rights return to me upon publication. If you choose to follow this blog, you can receive them automatically in your email.

Until then, see you by the Tumtum tree,
tee-hee tee-hee,
Elizabeth

In memoriam of my dad, Lawrence C. Hornor, April 28, 1929 – Febrary 12, 2019, who would recite the original “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll — even when impaled by a lilac bush he was trimming by the sea — and with thanks to NaPoWriMo for prompting me “to rewrite a famous poem” so I could give him this little something back.

Dadderwhacky
by Lewiz Carroll Hornor Boquet

Dad took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the lilaxome foe sought —
So rested he by the purplish tree
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in doofish thought he stood,
The Dadderwhack, with eyes of flame,
Came whippling through the bugley wood
And sworbled as he came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
His sharpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it flib, and with his rib
Made one final attack.

And thus did slay, my Dadderwhack,
That rottish lilaxsome-annoy!
O frabjous day! Callouh! Callay!
He chortled in his joy.