An Etymologist Muses

Marco Polo (1254-1324) traveled through Asia for 24 years.

by Eileen Brener

My suitcase is packed—
overloaded, drooling
slivers of denim and fleece.
There’s no escaping it.
I’m “travailen”
from the Old French travailler
to suffer, torment, labor.
According to 14th century
Frenchmen, traveling
was suffering.

Go back to Vulgar
Latin via Anglo-French
for trepalliare: to torture;
           trepalium an instrument
of torture. Like Marco
Polo I must prepare
to be stranded (probably
in Atlanta), travel in endless
circles (over LaGuardia), face
constant miseries of hunger
and thirst. Next year I’ll plan
a journey: from the Old
French journee, a day trip.

Eileen Brener has enjoyed studying writing–poetry and prose–at the IRP.