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.