‘L’Esprit de l’Escalier’ by Fiona Larkin

L’Esprit de l’Escalier

I’m virtually bilingual.
My adopted tongue’s
l’esprit de l’escalier,
belated repartee.

My adopted tongue’s
effortlessly en retard,
belated repartee
spins a fluent ghost.

Effortlessly en retard,
my next riposte’s a wraith,
another fluent ghost,
she whispers down the hall.

My next riposte’s a wraith,
she twirls around the newel,
she whispers down the hall
and flicks her phantom cloak.

She twirls around the newel,
I loiter in the stairwell;
she flicks her phantom cloak,
I mutter more bons mots.

Loitering in the stairwell,
I’m virtually bilingual:
I mutter more bons mots
in l’esprit de l’escalier.
Literally, ‘wit of the staircase’ – a witty remark coming to mind on the stairs leading away from a gathering.
(published in Issue 356, Oxford Magazine)
Fiona Larkin was born in London to Irish parents. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in a range of publications, including Envoi, SOUTH Poetry, South Bank Poetry, Ink Sweat & Tears, London Grip and The Stare’s Nest. In 2015 she is commencing an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, and has previously worked for the Bank of England and in the education sector. Twitter @fionalarkin