- Fallen, and: Husband Fair
But I was never there. Never the light of my father’s eyes, or any well-lit brother’s (that deep-husked choir). There was no height from which to fall. I began here in the proverbial bottom: undertow, base from which one may rise but briefly, like the failing horse knowing it must now race, must tear out of its rusted gate, must further tear the pleuritic lining of its lungs, allow its tongue to loll ugly from the side of its mouth. Have you seen such a thing? Its brown coat salted with sweat as it lunges forward and lunges again, forcing its measure not up but out, knowing its ankles could fold under such weight, its nose opened into another being, sucking and snorting the only thing it takes within itself that does not judge it, the air. The sweet, sweet air as it makes its way around the curve that might kill it, that assuredly will kill it. Do you see me there? Of course not. I’m over here. Here. In this hollow running for my low life. O Father, for the light of a hand over my back. O Brothers, for the gold leaf wreath that might have meant a stroke of my neck, for that, I stretch these legs to breaking, I wrench this belly’s hull, dark [End Page 9] as all alluvial things are. Lucifer’s is a common story, a child’s bogeyman. What should frighten you is this: Imagine what he would be had he not fallen, had he never seen the elusive light at all, never been privy to the cords of God’s neck, if he in fact, doubted such things, believing only in what anguishes and writhes, trusting nothing more than what soils his hands.
for Matthew, darling How good to lay with my husband in our stone flat with not enough windows and many doors. We need another chair. The smaller table wobbles too much for books and won’t hold both of our plates. But we eat, he and I, and the fare is good. I do the cooking, because he doesn’t know how. Never learned. I don’t mind. The food is mine too. He cooks and we laugh. How good to tell him “no” when I feel like it, and “yes” and “maybe” and we laugh more, he and I, so freely though not carefree— there are bills, there is the cost of everything, the bill collectors that threaten. And the roof over our heads, over our small bed, is not one we own. We own so little, but we get by, we go from here to there to here, on need and on whim, for desire, for work. How different from my line, from that woman not so distant, who never went anywhere beyond a field of bolls, who lay with another’s husband, my grandfather not so many fathers ago. He who owned so very much and her, pinned beneath him, his arms of rope, his body of winter, who laughed only when she cried, his face a heavy drift over hers, her face as brown as my own. [End Page 10]
Vievee Francis is the author of two books of poetry, Blue-Tail Fly (Wayne State UP) and Horse in the Dark (Northwestern UP), and her works have appeared in many periodicals and anthologies. She is the recipient of a 2009 Rona Jaffe Award and a 2010 Kresge Artist Fellowship. She is currently an associate editor for Callaloo.