Taking the Shape

Although never visible in the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau series, Simone played a key role in the operation at sea. Her nickname was “La Bergère”, the Shepherdess.

You spend a girlhood picking up Japanese,
listening to the bus driver call out Maiko,

so your mother knows when to ring the bell
for the beach, and your bangs are so short

strangers ask for directions to Shinjuku
and street vendors fry sweet silk worms for you.

The way a mimic octopus because a sea snake,
brittle star, jellyfish, anemone, or sting ray

by contorting itself, you grow by taking the shape
of those around you. No wonder, then,

at eighteen while your father drinks champagne
in gardens in Paris, recruiting suitors

for your life at Rue Emile Borel,
with its embroidered napkins and roasted duck,

where you would shrink into “ma femme,”
you choose Jacques Cousteau. How his buttons

shone. You go everywhere with him;
riding Calypso, hair pulled back against

the wind. With or without binoculars,
you are the one to spot the whale

or albatross, to read the skies, to shepherd
divers up. You grow into the shapes

needed of you: La Bergère, mother,
medic, psychiatrist to the all-male crew,

the sea’s wife who sells her jewels and furs
for a compass and a gyroscope.

Don’t be afraid to appear on a camera.
Many of us are waiting to take your shape.