The Book of Franks

after CA Conrad's "The Book of Frank"

when France was born
Papa inspected the petite bundle
the infirmière handed him

“but where’s my son’s coq?
my son has no coq!”

Maman raises herself from the bed
“this is your Anglo daughter Liebe
your daughter has no coq”

“why doesn’t my daughter have a coq!?
she took after your Kraut side
de la famille!
quelle monde MALÉFIQUE!
and blathering like 
an idiot sucking 
her thumb!”

Maman fell back onto the bed
“nein Liebe she’s just a newborn 
teach her your mother tongue
before you cut hers out
for not speaking französische”

“évidemment boche!
le français on l’apprend
l’anglais on l’attrape
l’allemend on l’occupe”

France hated the endless lessons
language: je tu il elle nous vous ils elles
history: en 1789 la Révolution française 
et la prise de la Bastille
manners: soup spooned 
away from your self

how a meal could last 
a whole day
sitting around la table
wishing people would drop
dead. if only so France could
leave the fucking table

young back aching
from sitting straight for hours 
elbows kept far away
from the shame of rest
on la table

Maman tisked her dispproval
France spooned carrots into the hole
on the side of the wooden table
Maman swept up the mess 
France still in her highchair

“you are too big
du bist so unordentlich
your soil will betray me
the rest of your life”

legs shaking, hands fidgeting
France picks her nail beds
until they bleed on the pristine
white tablecloth

“mon dieu!” Papa cries
“quelle sorte de petite fille 
rongle ses ongles!
ce n’est pas digne d’une petite dame”

“but I’m not a young lady
I’m just a little girl
who wants her Papa
to love her”

wine pours down from the sky

the city is colicky
and crying

no one wants a brat

les sale gosses leave sticky jammy handprints

France naps on the lawn
snoring not a care
that she is sleeping 
on Maman’s sage

with the present mist
borders will 
blur and 

France found frogs legs 
in her hair

“Papa!” she yelled
“pourquoi ne m’as-tu pas 
appris à manger des cuisses
de grenouilles commes les autres
jeunes filles française?”

“parceque t’u n’es pas française!” he yells back
“sale boche! tu ressembles plus 
à ta mère qu’à moi!”

“mais j’ai la citoyenneté française” 
she clucked liked a coq 

“ARRÊTEZ ÇA!” he bellowed

she flapped her arms in the air

the rooster led her
behind the hen house

at the dinner party
France lost her new bow
Maman had put in her
hair so tight it tugged
so she ripped it out

now it was gone
along with her femininity
she looked for it 
on the table and drank
from everyone’s cups

France vomited in the 
flower vase then crawled 
behind the speaker and napped
with a cat
as a pillow

“but where is France?” they asked
while their only answer
was in their glasses
in the absence of
the dregs

while Papa slept
France stole his tongue

he told her never to do that
“ma petite choux croute
les français savent
when you’re faking”

“vouloir c’est pouvoir” France
recited the oft-heard phrase
to her grandmother who told her
that they couldn’t have ice cream
for dinner

her grandmother’s scowl
iced out the room instead
and France ate the icicles
that dripped from her nose

but Papa was confused
which was France?
the Anglo girl speaking 
his mother tongue
or la fille Frank speaking
in a strange accent?

after lunch Papa scolded
the Anglo girl for mispronouncing
grenouille too soon
after eating

France sits on the gazon
and shivers as the cold blades
touch her hot cuisses
she sits like that masturbating 
for hours mille petites morts

France puts ketchup
on her plate of 
freedom fries

“sacré bleu! trahison!” 
Papa went apoplectic
“les français ne mettent pas du 
ketchup sur nos frites!”

“…but Papa, it tastes good”

“de la MAYONNAISE!!”

France dips her fries in
the traitor sauce and licks
her fingers

treachery is delicious

Author’s Note

My poem is written after the style of CAConrad in their book of poetry “The Book of Frank.” I imitate Conrad’s style and techniques, such as their refusal to conform to traditional poetic devices and structures and their poetry of the quotidian. I also imitate Conrad’s semi-autobiographical method where the specific scenes did not happen, yet the searching for identity develops in a similar way.

The title is a play on words of “The Franks,” a term used to describe a Germanic tribe that settled in France, which itself is a play on the fact that I am French with some German heritage. My poem follows a little girl named France as she struggles to find her identity in her early childhood. France is searching for her true identity and questioning whether she is French, German, or Anglophone and whether these distinctions even matter.

SOPHIE CORBIERE graduated in June 2023 from York University with an undergraduate degree in English and Professional Writing, and will be attending a Master’s of Information Program at U of T in the Fall of 2023. Sophie is the former Senior Poetry Editor for Existere, York University’s literary journal. An avid gardener, she loves to grow flowers and vegetables and spend time in the garden.