Banquise means I don’t speak French today

A trio of penguins waddled along the ice. “The good, the sad and the ugly”, Marie chuckled when she noticed that the one in the middle had its beak down. Unless it was just examining a white stone it had found in the middle of the great ice pack. Marie didn’t know, really. Their dark outline stood out against the pale spring sky in three ovals of shiny black feathers, punctuated by the flash of an orange toe on every other step. Word is that there’s a whole spectrum of whites out there waiting to be painted, but Marie could only see the broader variations of texture. Where a miniature peak rose up to bask in the sun, her eye ran along its plush line, browsing for an indication of shade and mostly losing itself in the next monochrome mound. The odd plaque of crust appeared after the penguins’ feet hesitated at a turn, melting the shiny crystals. Apart from slight wafts of fishy breath, the air was kept in a lethargy by the coolness of the island.

Waddle and hop. Waddle and hop. The three penguins peeked over the edge of their crisp springboard into the more Vegas than Vegas Venetian blue, shaking out their wings in preparation for the dip. There, at this point, in this moment, right there and just about then, Marie gazed out onto a sea of alveolar ice blocks. In places, the chilled water still formed bridges between the chips of ice, letting the flowing stuff that brushed past catch a lone ray of sunlight through the transparent matter.

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Original art by Astrid @l_appogiature

A pair of autumn boots squeaks down the street. Her legs are wrapped in whatever pair of pants she reluctantly put on the same morning, dreaming of mountain treks on freer days. She also wears a whatever-top. She can’t quite find the words she’s after all the time, though that’s probably not an unusual struggle. Under the top, Marie presses her hand against the vaguely athletic abdomen she likes to think is the result of her sweaty determination. No idea where those penguins have gotten to. Of course, the small islets join on a cyclical basis, so that the water is hidden under their surface. Sometimes on the other hand, the sky does warm up, and the krill-filled waters come to lick past the planet’s pole. It’s all there, under my tee.

I never remember that a chickpea is a chickpea. Almost pois chiche, but more, chick. Just like the checkerboard-faced Feirefiz in the great Eschenbach’s Arthurian ramble, I’m a zebra who’s given up on deciding whether those damn stripes are white or black. Or whether the black stripes only look that way because they’re set against such an untanned background. It’s not that big a difference, anyway. No one would be shocked if my tongue slipped against my gums and it became, “chishpea”. Apparently, I’m rich for knowing that a chick is a poussin en français, whereas the word chiche takes up more place in the English version of my falafel recipe and becomes “up for it”. That’s something the kids at school understood fast enough to turn to me when the English classes got really tricky, and they needed to give directions to a fictitious Peter going to an imaginary post office for the sake of vocabulary learning. Meanwhile, I discovered much later that having met Postman Pat rather than Mylène Farmer was not as much of a shame as little Marie had thought.

Wonder what else the poulpe gets up to? Head over to the magazine version to see all our articles in bright colours! And as always, go check out Astrid’s other beautiful work on Instagram @l_appogiature

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