Too many la la las

Two poems by Elizabeth Smither

On an Air Canada flight

with bilingual announcements

made very fast in English and French


one of the hostesses says

Oh la la la instead of two

las, causing another hostess


hand over her mouth

to hide her laugh, to exclaim

‘One too many las, dear.’


It’s excusable, even fun.

We’re descending, ready to land.

We’ve flown over innumerable


lakes, said to have no names

as if words for names ran out

miles back, on some bare frontier


or vast plain, uninhabited.

We could do with an extra la

to ground us, to all that awaits.

Degas and the dancers

He hated dancers, friends knew.

He made them pose until their bones cracked

in the intervals between performances.


Any pity he possessed was shown in tulle

and the subtle allure of the stage. Sometimes

a sinister top hat appeared in the wings


waiting to take his pick. The little dancer

having been pinioned by him in bronze

was late for a rehearsal and dismissed.


So, Degas. Aching arabesque and grand battement

the spotlight on vice and made-up face:

everything that aches, you flossied up.

Elizabeth Smither’s latest publication is a collection of short stories, ‘The Piano Girls’ (Quentin Wilson, 2021). A new collection of poetry, ‘My American Chair’ will be published next year by Auckland University Press.