Clairefontaine

1 December 2014

A bright orange notebook denominated “Clairefontaine”,
96 pages of papier velouté ruled in lilac and pink,
is the last vestige of two years at the Lycée Français
where each subject had its own special cahier,
its glossiness and heft implying the relative weight
and importance of the knowledge transcribed
within its covers.

My own students had flimsy yellow cahiers
indicating the low status of English at that institution
whose mandate was to bring culture to us
in our colonial exile. Recognizing this, they refused to pay
for their textbooks and handed their homework in late
or not at all. Meanwhile, around the corner,
a foreign language school was being demolished
having collapsed on a class overpaying for the privilege
of wrestling with “there”, “their” and “they’re”:
further proof that the study of English was suspect.

One young man died shielding a classmate
with his body; his actions heroic
in any language.

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