Petit Jean

They’ll say it was for a boy.
It was never about a boy,
except for Jeanne pretending to be Jean,
to go to sea. How boring 

the future looked, years of
needlework and waiting,
once-a-year couplings,
all horizons known. 

How the world opened like an unfurling sail
when I chopped off my hair,
slipped into my brother’s clothes,
and climbed aboard. 

That wind filled me
so my joy was never killed
by spoiled food, stale water,
uneasy, rocking nights. 

And this new land—
I, a girl from Normandy, “Petit Jean,”
seeing what few have seen.
My mates were proud of the boy. 

I was up to it all,
but now I am fevered.
I will die in this new country,
far from the village churchyard 

or my priest, or even—
I think of her now—
my mother, whose harsh hands
would surely reach to soothe my hot brow. 

Too late to send me home,
my secret will be discovered.
Brothers, I never meant to lie,
only to live. 

On this pretty little mountain,
green-wooded, above the brown-blue river,
propped against the solid
comfort of these rocks, 

I will die. I gaze up at the high clouds,
a hawk soaring, my eyes
still full of horizons, my heart
set on what I cannot see.




Leda 5
by Gary Simmons