I was 16 when I learned that the French change
their verbs when talking about
suggestions and emotions, as if these subsets of thought
were so powerful that they commanded entire grammatical systems
to change and orbit around them. The verb ‘pleurer
(to cry) is one of those verbs that can change,
but it seems to remain the same,
as if the catharsis that comes at the end
of a sad-song, stuffy-nose downpour
is too powerful to be changed
by the voices of an entire country.

I was 17 when I had that sweet epiphany,
that ‘pleurer’ stayed the same when talking
about me
and about you.
As ‘se tenir’ (to stand) changed from
Je me tiens’ (I am standing) to ‘que je me tienne’ (My act of standing is dependent
on someone or something else’s advice),
Je pleure’ (I am crying) remained ‘que je pleure’ (My act of crying is dependent
on someone or something else’s actions, but it remains constant).

Today, I am 19 and the streets of America are red with innocent blood,
spilled by those who swore to protect us. I wish to wrap my fingers
around their heads and tell them
Je veux que tu pleures’ (I want you to cry, for your crying is dependent on my desire)
just to see if they would respond with ‘Mais je pleure déjà,’
(But I already am crying).

Je doute que tu pleures.
(I doubt that you are crying, for your eyes
are not yet red with the cathartic sting
that every other American has felt by now).