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  • The Shore, and: On the Piney Woods, Death, Bobby Frank Cherry, and Me, and: Goat
  • Vievee Francis (bio)

poetry, Texas, sex, love, intimacy

The Shore

In a nondescript hotel in East Texas, I fellin love with a couple. There in the dim

hallway with rugs that were clean enoughbut darkly patterned to hide the stains so who knows,

her back was against the wall, her arms up and aroundhis neck. He was bent down to kiss her, to press

his body into hers. Their bodies were fluid, two wavesnot crashing but moving through each other–

I watched my friends from the other end of the hallway,surprised, I had halted. Doesn't another's passion

make us want the same? They never saw me. I didn't stay longand stayed silent. She was not his wife, but his

love was palpable. His hands were tender not quick.Slow not furtive     That press.

I have been a witness to such passion more than once,more than most. On a common street in Manhattan,

in a nondescript restaurant whose patrons—too young, toochildish to value discretion or quiet—spoke in loud voices

and fell drunkenly over the tables, I saw my dinner partnerthrough the oversized windows. The street lit by random lights. [End Page 32]

He drew her up into his body. She was no friend of mine.She followed me to follow him. She found him

and drew his face down to hers. They kissed in a waythat said they had kissed many times before and

perhaps it had been a long time. The kiss was longand deep and I ate my steak au poivre bloody under sauce

and waited for them to finish, for him to come backto the table after rushing out "to take a call."

They never saw me watching. Didn't even look up.He swept her up as if his entire body longed

for a certain kind of completion. Her hair so like his mother'she might have cried into it. Where is the shame

in that? She was not his wife. I am not his judge.I was on the shore, only a witness to the oceanic:

dangerous, tidal, reckless, and always. [End Page 33]

On the Piney Woods, Death, Bobby Frank Cherry, and Me

"He said he lit the fuse," testified ex-wife [of Bobby Frank Cherry] Willadean Brogdon.

They move through the exit. The drama of their earthly life comes to a close.…

These children, unoffending, innocent, and beautiful.

—Martin Luther King Jr., speaking at the funeral of four girls killed in the Birmingham bombing, 1963

Sometimes I wander around wonderingwhere my mother is. The family buriedher next to her own mother. Out there,the hard pines darken early. Anyonecan hide and not be found for years.Bobby Cherry laid low there. The girls camein his dreams. You can't live in those woodsand not be haunted by what you've done.So he had to be more given to visitationthan most. They wouldn't have come whole;they would have arrived in bits and pieces,the way he left them. They would have heldbits of church brick and holy bric-a-brac.They might have come as a glove or a hatsmall enough for their child heads. I imaginethey were laughing or singing before the bombwent off so they may have moved throughthe house as voices or the tiny tap of a shoe.I lived out there when he did. I didn't knowhe was there. It makes sense. It was a placeinhabited by the lost and the found, by horrorand grace. I am haunted by memories, aspresent as ghosts. As clearly seen as friends.I believe in ghosts and am grateful I havecommitted no crimes. Though, I am untouchable,I was born so. Under four pounds, bent-legged,pale, and stricken. I went straight into an incubator. [End Page 34] A metal tit. Monkeyed against a glass and wire frame.The girls would have been only a few years olderthan me. They died...


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