Then I wouldn’t prefer the California wine, its big sugar, big fruit rolling down my tongue, a cornucopia spilled across a tacky tablecloth. I’d prefer the French, its smoke and rot. Said Cézanne: Le monde—c’est terrible! Which means, The world—it bites the big weenie. People sound smarter in French. The Japanese prefer the crescent moon to the full, prefer the rose before it blooms. Oh, I have been to the temples of Kyoto, I have stood on the Pont Neuf, and my eyes, they drank it in, but my taste buds shuffled along in the beer line at Wrigley Field. It was the day they gave out foam fingers. I hereby pledge to wear more gray, less yellow of the beaks of baby mockingbirds, that huge yellow yawping open on wobbly necks, trusting something yummy will be dropped inside, soon. I hereby pledge to be reserved. When the French designer learned I didn’t like her mockups for my book cover, she sniffed, They’re not for everyone. They’re subtle. What area code is 6 6 2 anyway? I said, Mississippi, sweetheart. Bet you couldn’t find it with a map. Okay: I didn’t really. But so what if I’m subtle as May in Mississippi, my nose in the wine-bowl of this magnolia bloom, so what if I’m mellow as the punch-drunk bee. If I were Japanese I’d write about magnolias in March, how tonal, each bud long as a pencil, sheathed in celadon suede, jutting from a cluster of glossy leaves. I’d end the poem before anything bloomed, end with rain swelling the buds and the sheaths bursting, then falling to the grass like a fairy’s castoff slippers, like candy wrappers, like spent firecrackers. Yes, my poem would end there, spent firecrackers. If I were French, I’d capture post-peak, in July, the petals floppy, creased brown with age, the stamens naked, stripped of yellow filaments. The bees lazy now, bungling the ballet, thinking for the first time about October. If I were French, I’d prefer this, end with the red-tipped filaments scattered on the scorched brown grass, and my poem would incite the sophisticated, the French and the Japanese readers— because the filaments look like matchsticks, and it’s matchsticks, we all know, that start the fire.