1109: Never Did Say So by Caridad Moro-Gronlier

20240502 Slowdown

1109: Never Did Say So by Caridad Moro-Gronlier


I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.

During a recent visit to the Oregon coast, I sat in the glow of the biggest television I ever set eyes upon. My hosts lodged me in a beautiful all-glass home that overlooked a bluff. By day, I watched the great Pacific churn. Then, at night, I watched a series of concerts by artists from my youth: The Cure, Depeche Mode, Soul II Soul, Fishbone, Loose Ends, Jay-Z. In the dark, the music transported me to rhythms from another life — it called up long-ago emotional geographies.

How is it that songs and poems express so accurately our states of being? Depeche Mode’s industrial clanging and darkly romantic lyrics captured the edges of me, as did Loose Ends’ lush, synth-laced chords.

Today’s poem explores the depths of its speaker by applying the lyrics of an iconic artist who gets that indomitable spirit of smart, independent women.

Never Did Say So
by Caridad Moro-Gronlier

After Dolly Parton’s “To Daddy”

We jumped a red-eye to France to celebrate
a decade of marriage, and I prayed
to love him as much as I loved Paris.

I willed myself to shine like the Seine
through the clock at the Orsay, to stop
at least once a day and kiss him

along the Champs-Élysées. I willed my body
to unfurl like an accordion in his hands,
to murmur & bellow the song of Le Marais,

but no matter how I unreeled the filmstrip
of the we I willed us to be, his face remained
obscured in every image, the lens trained on me.

Not that I said so in a language he understood.
I walked ahead and switched to French when we deplaned,
rendered him mute with sentences

he didn’t ask me to translate—
S'il vous plait, pouvez-vous nous aider?
Nous sommes perdus.

He believed I was fluent enough to speak
for both of us and didn’t think to learn
any words for himself.

Content to nod and follow,
he didn’t blame me when I got us lost
on the way to our last dinner

on the Rue de Soleil because the driver
heard Rue Désolée and drove the wrong way
across town, a mistake that encapsulated our lives—

the two of us stuck in a moving vehicle, miles
between sunny and sorry, an error that tripled
our fare and cost far more than we’d planned for.

I apologized, but he laughed because France
still ran on Francs and he still had enough
patience to forgive me anything. I nodded 

when the driver offered to appease us
with un peu de musique américain and slid 
Dolly Parton’s Greatest Hits into the cassette deck.

My husband took my hand then, confessed
how relieved he was to know the words,
how happy he was to be going home.

Such a good omen, he said, but he was mistaken.
No omen was Dolly, but an oracle, a prophesy
singing about the fate of a woman who never did tell

of what she felt, who faked her grin and forgot
her face, who willed herself to love the noose
of her wedding ring. The last verse told everything

she never said—how her longing was vaster than silence,
how she bolted the door behind her,
how she never did say goodbye.

“Never Did Say So” by Caridad Moro-Gronlier from LET ME SAY THIS: A DOLLY PARTON POETRY ANTHOLOGY © 2023 Caridad Moro-Gronlier. Used by permission of Madville Publishing.