Saturday Jun 22

FrancisVievee Vievee Francis is the author of Horse in the Dark (Northwestern UP, 2012) and Blue-Tail Fly (Wayne State UP, 2006). Her work appears or is forthcoming in POETRY, The Rumpus, Best American Poetry 2010, and Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. An Associate Editor for Callaloo, she is also a Visiting Professor (Undergraduate Program) of Creative Writing at Warren WilsonCollege.



List to a Tale of Love in Acadie, home of the happy
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I would not say so. Rather, settled
in this moment where no axe falls.

And one might wonder why
not happy in such an idyllic place

—with more trees than might be named
and the blooms ever blooming

in a heat seemingly ceaseless
as the red-throated woodpeckers,

as the tree frogs mating endlessly
on the same limbs a black bear might

loll from, indolent and berry-full.
You have heard me say, Nature

will have its way. That we build
only way-stations. I was proud.

I thought I understood, but
now I have come to this Ridge

which will have its toll: my sleep
grows longer, my dreams follow

into my days. I have begun to name
the birds by their feathering, their calls

and clamor: nightjar, flicker, plover, shrike.
Before the mountain I knew the incinerated

cities. I knew another South. But that
was before I was another. The one

I am becoming as the roots reclaim
this soil, as what is felled takes on

a form it could not have imagined,
whose seeds had always rested below

like a sorrow of banjoes.

A Flight of Swifts Made Their Way In         

and settled along my cage

—so expectantly beautiful,
their swerve, I wanted to touch
them, to take their tiny frames
            and snap their necks.
Tell me you haven’t felt that way.
Tell me
you haven’t wanted to stifle what hovers
dumb before your heart?
I hollowed myself into a cave
for others. I opened wide as a tomb
from which the stone has been rolled and
in they flew to the emptiness of me,
where they made themselves a home,
nested lickety-split in my walls.
            I have never been whole
so there was room. Now, a part of me,
I am less inclined to hurt them, but
consider taking flight myself, wind-borne
from some vertiginous place, with so many
wings within beating beating beatingbeating
                        beatingbeating beating

(Thunderstorm   Palestine, TX 3:00 PM) 

Tin roof, ten teeth, 3 gold, as if from a tin pan
in a slow creek drawing mud, calling up catfish
from the muck, and that skinny man, Aunt Tinny’s
man, never married, married man. He’s got his
head thrown back. Eyes closed for his daily claim:
the way she pulls the hurt right out
of him, like a long-splinter whose release
almost feels good. Real good.
He cooks but doesn’t eat. Doesn’t need
anything but what he took years back
and keeps shacked in front of him. A woman
tinned her own cans back there, back then,
and burned trash in the backyard. You think I don’t
know who I am? Tin-tonguing the gap
between there—listening with my hands stuck
to my chest and the ring shout of my own feet--
and now. “Tin cutter. Just like me” to hear Tinny
tell it. Once you’ve sat on that sweat-stained couch,
pot-liquor spotted,  love- marked cushions
frayed to failing, and listened to her pound
the upright’s keys, some tan, and half-rotted
black. Barely standing, and the bench barely able
to hold her tin-haired self, you won’t be right.
She’ll mess you up if you stay too long tin man.
That wail wrapping its arms around you, its legs
like a weighted trap. You’ll cry for your mother.  
You’ll cry like you’ve never cried before.
‘Course you will. Taking in what can't be
taken in. She’ll give it to you anyway, ten-times
the measure, over days like one long road
of night, cold, hard as hail on tin. And you
watching the key she’s holding didn’t know
it was missing. Didn’t know a body could keep
so much inside. Let so much go. Wail and wail and