I’d like to get away from earth for a while,
Then come back to it and begin over
Robert Frost, Birches

But I want to change countries for a while,
I want to see if life runs parallel or askew
In another country across the Atlantic,
Want to see what politics are like in a country
With a much longer history than ours, and
If they have a president or king or p.m.,

Who waves and wields the mighty veto
Cudgel, and if they argue over petty issues
And pursue power as much as we, and
To see if they have a political-party system
That sometimes seems designed to make
Enemies of their own; yes, I think it’s time

To recall, as Tacitus noted long ago, that
“For the greedy who struggle for power,
There is no middle ground,” and I’ll see
If a nation can maintain its governmental
Balance without turning its’ democracy
Into a travesty or a Dylan joke, and I’ll remember

The danger of allowing a minority to write
A country’s agenda, as the French sociologist,
De Tocqueville, once warned about in 1830.
Yes, I want to see how a country differs
When they have far more history than we,
And who its literary, cultural, and military

Heroes be—what wars they fought, and
Why they won or lost, and if strife partly
Defines the human condition, as some folks
Insist, and yes, I want to see how educational
Systems work from K- to-12 and I’ll walk
Down a few vocational and prestigious

University hallways and learn what it takes
To be a teacher and what gauntlet “tu” or
“Vous” must run to be called an educated one.
Yes, I’ll ride bicycles around Loire valleys
And byways and through Burgundy vineyards
And observe that country’s art history and

Architecture to see how the tradition of those
In power and patronage valued urban ambiance
And rural aesthetics, and while I’m over there,
I want to see how another country handles
Its immigration—if and when they had
A colonial history that exploited others

Across the sea and see if there are migrants
Now crossing waters illegally, and if and
To what degree the country controls their
Borders, especially on river or coastal sea sides,
And, yes, I want to see how their corporate news
Compares and contrasts and buzzes issues

The way the news media exploit differences and
Frictions in these United States, and, if over
There, media bore its citizens daily with petty
Details, including facile, celebrity worship that
Alienates citizens from their own lives, and, yes
I want to see how their cinema developed

And see how their movies contrast, all to check
If people-based films are made someplace besides
The car-chase and shoot-up spectacles of Hollywood
That often force writers to be second-class citizens,
And corporations obsessed with profit, while
Ignoring the best of aesthetics that gave them
An artistic ship to sail the Mediterranean world.



Once living in the “hexagon,” I’ll read French
Literature, their Hugo’s, Moliere’s, and Camus’
And see how the poetry, fiction, and theatre
Reflect the myths, dreams, and cultural fears,
And neuroses, then I’ll peruse their existentialist
Thinkers to see if they are more pessimistic or

Optimistic than a James or C. S. Pierce with
Their pragmatism, which strike a few as feeding
The relentless work ethic, where mindless toil
Often trumps all, even in 2024, when a paltry two-
Week vacation still exists—a custom that inspired
Bertrand Russell to note that the USA was a country

Chained to working for “clock and calendar.” Yes,
I want to see if a country with a 35-hour work week
Is less efficient than this USA, and I’ll test the theory
That countries with histories of war are more or less
Efficacious in their approach to organization and
Social laws, and if they run their buses and bullet

Trains on time; yes, I want to see how tax systems
Work in another country—to see if the ones on
Lower ladder rungs get compensated for the taxes
They pay for, and/or if, as in these USA, the ones
Serving with the military or possessing the most
Wealth get so many socialistic breaks—yes,

I want to see how the spring water and gourmet
Food tastes over there, I want to know if they cook
With couscous and escargots, and I want
To see if their fast-food corporations feed as
Much unhealthy food to their citizens, as we, and
If their food corporations push “toxicfied foods”

With loads of sugar and salt, while shaping a culture
That does not give time to sit down, as we dumbly
And numbly stumble through a drive-through-
Fast-food-traffic-jam, and yes, I want to see how
Another country handles its health-care system,
And if their government sells out to the mighty

Insurance corporations, and I’ll see if a tiny
Dental crown in a dentist’s office costs more
Than a laptop computer, which seems
The growing norm in these USA, and yes,
I want to read, listen, speak and even dream
In another language for a while, for example,

To try my hand at writing run-on sentences that
The French habitually write, as they speak in their
Elegant, if rapid, tones, while changing the “nous”
To the “on” and if their pronouns alter my plural
Or singular field of view, and, while I’m there,
In the south of France (of course,) I want to check

Benjamin Whorf’s theory, who believed that
Language shapes the way we speak and think,
And to what degree some disagree, and, sure,
For a summer, I’ll avoid writing with my English
Iambic rhythm, avoid counting stresses and,
Instead, go with the syllabic flow of counting

All the sound beats to reach the stressed
End of a French line, So sure, I’ll change
Countries for a while, but make no mistake,
I don’t want to change passports, nor join
The famed foreign legion, nor even buy
A red-tiled-roof house in Provence to bathe

In Cezanne’s sunlight—I just want to change
Linguistic signs and scenery of lands and earth
For a while, as I ride the TGV rails as far as
They’re laid to witness what it’s like to cross
A parallel country, running on their own set of tracks.


Reed Venrick is a writer from the Florida Keys and has studied French in Dijon. BTW, a thank you for publishing my poem in 2022.