Jo France – Je m’appelle

France LE P&W September 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing September 2023

Je m’appelle , poems by Jo France.

Je m’appelle

my father tossed a coin
outside the country church of my christening
Joanne landed on my head
I kept the first part
unhitched the caboose
Jo – so close to joy
but lacking the inflection
the eternal why
I asked my parents
if my name was special
it’s just a name
it doesn’t mean anything
French form of Johanna
I find it means God is gracious
Joan of Arc’s motto
go forward bravely, fear nothing
at seventeen, divinely inspired
the lionhearted maid of Orleans
a national heroine
at nineteen
too dangerous to be allowed to live
burned at the stake
and so it goes
for valiant teenage girls
whose names refuse
to be extinguished
and burn eternally on our lips

father and fifth child

at six, I thrilled to stand
on the crests of his feet
sashay across lino
a syncopated two-step
to his jaunty whistle
once, through the screen door
on the verandah
I witnessed him weep
his large hands
a mantle for his face
in dry rhythm
his body quaked
his voice a canticle
I watched sorrow rise
charge the air
a lone flamenco dancer
then dissipate
at right angles
through imperfect
louvre windows

waiting for death

we all have someone
who will have to die
before we can
speak our truth
I don’t mean we need to kill them
but they must be respectfully mourned
before we can speak with abandon
to write is to bleed
said Hemingway
but what if the blood is not our own?
do we have the right to spill it?
words are indelible
they take our breath away
make us bend
sometimes break
to wield that power
requires courage I am not sure I possess
and so I face the lion
and so I wait

© Jo France

Jo France is an emerging Australian poet based in Tasmania/lutruwita. She has been twice Highly Commended in the Robyn Mathison Poetry Prize, and her poems have featured at Oasis Women’s Poetry. She often writes on themes of family and women’s experiences.

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