Poem by Vievee Francis
Not knowing is worse. I said that, but
didn’t mean it. It was just as bad knowing
which meant – ending. My abandon often
leads to ending, yet how can I not plunge
into the rock-riddled waterfall, press my face
into the hawthorn bristling with bees? Did
I tell you every body is beckoning to me?
Even in loss I can’t help but see the rough jaw,
the reddened knee, the plump shoulder like
a dewy kumquat, and cheeks I would kiss and…
There is a woman whose mother burned her legs.
I still remember the touch of them. My hands under
her thick socks. I took off her shoes. She cried
at the feel of someone’s fingers on her scars.
When I am abandoned I wonder what I lack.
I know what I lack. My friends insist I’m beautiful,
like giving a bonus to the doorman, or
an extra week’s vacation to the maid, it feels
generous, but the door keeps being opened, and
the dishes keep getting done. There are scars
that can’t be seen. I want them touched, but
there are more scars than hands willing. My friends
refuse to see my scars. Positivists. It’s not that I don’t believe
them, it’s that they don’t believe it themselves. I wish I didn’t
know the end of things. I wish I could pretend otherwise.
But where would that lead? If I hear someone called
ugly, my own chest hurts, as if punched, and I don’t always see it
coming. I get befuddled by such cruelty, by the abandoned
fruit in the bin. I pick them up. I lick them before washing.
Someone threw them out because they weren’t easy on the eye.
As if the eye must be always smoothed and free of tears.
As if our eyes were made to look away.
Vievee Francis is the author of three books of poetry Blue-Tail Fly (Wayne State University Press, 2006), Horse in the Dark (Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Prize, 2012) Forest Primeval (Northwestern University Press, 2016). She is the recipient of the Hurston Wright Legacy Award and the Kingsley-Tufts Poetry Award. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including: Poetry, Best American Poetry 2010, 2014, 2017, and Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. She received a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award in 2009 and a Kresge Fellowship in 2010. She serves as an associate editor for Callaloo and an associate professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH.