NaPoWriMo: 30 poems in 30 days (day 22)

Day 22 prompt: write a poem inspired by an idiomatic phrase from a different language or culture.


How about both? I selected avoir l’esprit d’escalier (or avoir l’esprit de l’escalier), a French phrase that means to have the wit of the staircase. In English, we say escalator wit or afterwit. It refers to not making a repartee or a quick, witty reply, or clever comeback. The French admire and train for avoir de la répartie (the witty comeback) as part of their national sport: arguing and debating (so said dame de l’enseignement du français, Camille Chevalier-Karfis).

This idiom refers to thinking of your comeback after leaving and reaching the bottom of the stairs. The philosopher Diderot wrote about it around 1775, so it’s not a new thing.

Credit: Jim introduced me to this phrase a several months ago. Thanks hombre.


Right Back

I enjoy arguing. I even took argumentation
in college and I still twiddle with logic. But, I no
longer can find that safe place or person to engage
in a bit of désaccord amical. Is it me?

Am I sensitive to condescension or the ad hominem
manner I dismissed in my youth? Have I lost my edge?
Do I fear my own cuts to the core? I wish no harm.
In the past, I assumed my words were salt seasoned.

Am I more concerned with keeping the peace and less
with truth or finding fact? Can I call it at all, much less
like it is? Can we drink and swear, and point or turn
the voices up, yet go home friends who share more?

Is it my own l’esprit de l’escalier which forces me toward
and another thing … an hour later? Do you mean more to me
now than back then? Am I protecting you from me, me from you,
or is it some witness to the kerfuffle of wisdom and wit?

Or perhaps my heart and soul, my being me has fallen
into an age of mellow. Maybe I am diluted by political
and religious sensitivity, and by correctness of a culture
that wraps truth in euphemisms. Me? No way, José.


Look both ways in the world for cultural differences and similarities.
Mind the gaps, but know we are all connected.