“French Chocolates”

“French Chocolates” is one of those poems that says what you didn’t realize you were thinking until after you’ve read it. I couldn’t agree more. When I’m feeling down, spare me the platitudes and the pity, but I’ll never say no to chocolate or fine art.

French Chocolates

If you have your health, you have everything
is something that’s said to cheer you up
when you come home early and find your lover
arched over a stranger in a scarlet thong.

Or it could be you lose your job at Happy Nails
because you can’t stop smudging the stars
on those ten teeny American flags.

I don’t begrudge you your extravagant vitality.
May it blossom like a cherry tree. May the petals
of your cardiovascular excellence
and the accordion polka of your lungs
sweeten the mornings of your loneliness.

But for the ill, for you with nerves that fire
like a rusted-out burner on an old barbecue,
with bones brittle as spun sugar,
with a migraine hammering like a blacksmith

in the flaming forge of your skull,
may you be spared from friends who say,
God doesn’t give you more than you can handle
and ask what gifts being sick has brought you.

May they just keep their mouths shut
and give you French chocolates and daffodils
and maybe a small, original Matisse,
say, Open Window, Collioure, so you can look out
at the boats floating on the dappled pink water.

Ellen Bass 

What do you find most helpful from others when you’re feeling down? What rubs you the wrong way?

Open Window, Collioure 1905 by Henri Matisse


“French Chocolates” by Ellen Bass from Like a Beggar, 2014. Copyrighted material used for educational or therapeutic purposes.

Photo: Ecole Nationale Superieure De Patisserie official site


  1. I’m not sure she isn’t begrudging! And sometimes that’s something I can’t avoid. I get the outrage of people saying dumb things and I’m sure I have done this plenty. It’s hard to take my own advice and to just listen to a hurting friend or family member.

    It would be a gift to know what everyone’s chocolates are and be able to give them at just the right moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Spot on! Another treasure of a poem that unleashes so many emotions. I call these times a “rollercoaster of emotions” with a lot of those low dips that no one likes to talk about or acknowledge or share. As my friend told me the other day, “It is perfectly ok to feel enraged (“with nerves that fire/like a rusted-out burner on an old barbecue”), confused, upset, etc. Just let yourself feel it all.” What rubs me the wrong way is the lack of empathy and care of the “extravagant vitality / blossoming cherry tree” individuals out there, oblivious of others’ situations. What I find helpful is finding the courage to speak up, share the “behind-the-scene” experiences, and have someone to just listen. And then some moments of self-care always come in handy: peonies have been my daffodils and cherries have been my French chocolates these days.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you.  A small bit of sanity …….. woody

    Eugene R. Widrick, Minister Emeritus, The First Religious Society in Carlisle, MA   Wallace Stevens:  “The final belief is to believe in a fiction, which you know to be a fiction, there being nothing else.  The exquisite truth is to know that it is a fiction and that you believe it willingly.  

    Liked by 2 people

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