The Optimism of French Toast
by Dorianne Laux


by Dorianne Laux


No matter how many years since

the first bite passed my lips, that business

of eggs and day old bread, ribbon of syrup,

fireflies of butter sparking my tongue’s buds,

I think of my Acadian ancestors

landing on the shores of Nova Scotia, divining

logs from the deep woods, fashioning windows,

hanging laundry from two oars dug into sand—

the flags of domesticity flayed by the wind.

I see the fruits of their labor rise up

from the marshes: beets, parsnips, cabbages

and corn, and the wheat they ground

to powder and baked into bread.

And the chickens shook out egg after egg

we broke into shallow bowls, beat

with a spoon, each thick slice dipped

into that loom of albumen, chalazae and yolk,

then laid on a scrim of grease in the pan

where it sizzled its solitary song.

How could these French be

considered a scourge, their houses

burned to the ground they had worked,

forced to take the tangled circuitry

 of dirt roads with nothing but what

they could carry on their backs?  No time

for funerals, no place to go.  And yet

here I am listening to Clifton Chenier

on the radio, daughter of a people

who refused to die, a sack of wheat

on the shoulder, spoon in a belt loop,

sugar sprinkled in a pant cuff,

a sleeping chicken hidden under a coat.