Paul Bossé. Monosyllabio

français / Mi’kmaq

– Translated by Sarah MacNeil

Pascal Léo Cormier. Face Jam #5

my first name’s only got one syllable
pretty slim pickin’s if ya ask me
one syllable
my friends’ve got two or three or even four
Herménégilde’s got five the lucky bugger
not that having syllables is a status symbol or nothin’
but still
I always got the feelin’ like my parents gypped me or somethin’
my dad Marc-Aurèle’s got four and my mom Léona’s got three

s’got no rhythm or flow or grace even
s’like saying shoot or y’know like stop
an interjection or a word you follow with an exclamation point
a name you can say quick-like in the age a’ nanoseconds
a name like that and you’re immunized against diminutives like
Rob or Mike or Joe or Al

so happens that I’m one a’ them kids
whose dad had a best buddy and they
were prob’ly in the middle of an epic bender
they made a pact like
I swear that my first born
I’m gonna name him after you
and his friend the proverbial Paul
he reciprocated
so well in fact that a coupla years later
his son
well he went and named him Marc
(not Marc-Aurèle)
makes ya think it was a conspiracy a’ the single syllable

my dad well his first born wasn’t a son
so ya see my mom stepped in for that one
and she baptised her daughter Yara
s’like Sara or Tara but with a y
so not a name ya hear really and she says she invented it
meanwhile the pledge a’ my paternal to his buddy
well he still hadn’t made good on it

eighteen months later
he finally got his chance
but before I get into that
lemme backtrack a minute
cause even if eighteen grains of sand
in that ol’ clock a Poppa Tempus
doesn’t look like much
in the saga of our li’l family
they weigh at least a coupla tons
cause ya see
my sister she was born in Edmundston
in the Republic of Madawaska
in case ya didn’t know
Bossé well there’s no name more Brayon than that
ya look in the phone book in Edmundston and there’s page after page of us

small sidenote
growin’ up in Moncton
each time we got the new phone book
I would flip to the Bs right away
to see if there were any other Bossés who’d moved to town
cause for the longest time
apart from my dad Marc-Aurèle the only other was D’Arcy from down on Weyburn
I didn’t know him back then but I finally met him a few years back
at his daughter’s weddin’

the Republic of Madawaska
‘s’a crazy collection a’ borders
between New Brunswick and Quebec
between Quebec and Maine
between Maine and the Wolastoq
between the Wolastoq and New Brunswick
between New Brunswick and
so on

Edmundston open city
conquered by the Fraser mill
which oh hey is turnin’ a hundred this year
that’s where my grandfather and his sons worked
giant smokestack belchin’ out its stink of pulp n’ paper
all alchemically patched up into weeklies or TP
and even sometimes books a’ poetry

my dad too at a young age
got himself a job at Fraser’s as an inspector
and he made more money than his dad ever did
but for him cushy job or no
he wasn’t all that interested in mill work
his dream see
was to someday be Mr. Bossé attorney at law
so he went and had an epic fight with the old man
who was stunned that his own boy would spit on such a good job
and he went and left for university in a city where it didn’t smell like
mill puke

that’s where the young Brayon law student
met a restless lady hitchiker
who’d put a temporary stop to her peregrinations
to get some cash together
before carryin’ on her free-spirited way
from west to east to Halifax
she was a nurse and a Franco-Saskatchewanian
I need another sidenote here

Bossé we can all agree
isn’t the most elegant a names, or the most suave either
the first to get stuck with a name like that
might have been the village hunchback
but the restless Fransaskoise hitchhiker
my mother
well she’s got a blue-blooded name that would suit a marquise or duchess
classy ain’t it
not that my mom puts on snooty upper-crust airs or anythin’
after all she was raised on a farm
in some hole god-knows-where in southeast Saskatchewan

so yeah she fell in love with the young law guy
and yeah so she followed him back to his Edmundston cradle
and then she gave birth to a girl she named Yara
but after all that she said “enough”
cause even if Tourigny isn’t the dreamiest a’ names either
back home in her little house on the Prairie
she mostly spoke English
and it goes without sayin’ that Madawaska
land a’ the porcupines
wasn’t exactly her cup a’ tea
and cause her lawyer husband was now workin’
for the mighty CNR
surely there had ta be a way
to scheme up a transfer
somewheres else

so here we are right on the very edge
a’ that fateful eighteen-month mark I mentioned earlier
a somethin’-month-old on their back
the Bossé Tourigny family
a Franco-Brayon-Saskatchewanian mutt mix
takes the train and cuts a diagonal ‘cross the province
from northwest to southeast
and terminus they settle in Moncton home a’ Chiac
a supposedly infamous dialect
that doesn’t seem to bother these new arrivals

double double toil and trouble
some months later
fire burn and cauldron bubble
I make my way into the world on MacBeath Street
in a Moncton governed by Leonard Jones
a middle-age mayor with forked opinions
incapable a’ seein’ beyond his prejudice

so there I am a big baby wahn wahn
in a city that has no link whatsoever
to either one a’ my parents
where all the grand-kids spend their Sundays
climbin’ up the family tree
with their grammies and grampies and aunties and uncles
where everyone regardless a’ social class
proudly bears their scar
from the great 1755 botheration
where there’s a star for Gabriel for Évangéline
for Angèle Arsenault for Jacky Vautour for Louis J. Robichaud
for anyone who comes from here
who has the name
and who done something with their life

and me in all this
with my patronym that doesn’t fit
a name you won’t see on the attendance lists at Grand-Pré
no pedigree no stigma
not Acadian not Quebecois not Brayon not Fransaskois
not even Franconothin’
whatcha doin’ here pilgrim

maybe that’s why
when I was ten I felt like I was mindmelded
with mister Spock the Vulcan in Star Trek
the alien in a homogeneous community
that’s me
raised by Chiac wolves in a city a’ mud
a French Canadian in a time
where French Canadians were obsolete
took a long time to adapt
always feelin’ other
never fittin’ in till the day I said to myself
screw this I’m from Moncton I’m a Monctonian
I’m Acadian too
poutine à trou
tétine de souris

to end who-knows-which
sidenote that I just keep on makin’
at my MacBeath Street birth
my paternal seein’ that I was for sure of the male persuasion
exclaimed ah this boy we’ll name him “Paul”
soothin’ his conscience with regards to his old anthroponymic debt
and my mom replied “Paul”
feels like somethin’s missin’
what do ya think a’ “Paolo”
and my father the lawyer objected straightaway
our first kid
I said nothin’
I bit my tongue
I let you be 100 %

I can’t tell ya how many times
I been asked
where that name came from
so I’m sorry
but I’m puttin’ my foot down
in our house
there’s not gonna be a Yara and a “Paolo”
Christ this ain’t some latino-arabic household
our boy’s name is Paul
Pe Aa yU eL

my mom always felt instinctively
that for a kid to make his way in the world
one single measly syllable wasn’t nearly enough
her little boy would be poorer for it
as usual
she got her way
on my baptism certificate it does say Paul
but since the day I was born never once did she call me that
to her I was always her Paulo
with two great big beautiful syllables


Paul Bossé
Published in No 17. Creating Community

Paul Bossé. Photo : Annie France Noël
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