Where you could sit up straight

francine j harris

i have walked with half a skull and i have walked
with a blanch shell. i have walked, legs
split hungry, and i have walked too old.
and my body bones around the middle.
and i sling open one eye to the white
whale of you, blowing up spittle and gorge
and chunks of barnacle hunkered
between two ankles where i have
inched close to a dribble, a crawl,
a hunkering over like a fat, black man, white chested,
carrying the fragile egg of us over weighted ice. i have walked
on thick toes and you never said a word. i have walked,
hands out of gloves, I have walked.
dragged sled with you slumped over in it.
and we have fallen on the ice. we have fallen
with our glass bottles of milk and boiled water
and our hands cut up. i have walked carrying roof siding,
and wool bedding and fat. and i have walked carrying nails
between fingers, and i have walked with wood
and enough ocean floor to build you
small rooms where you could sit up straight.
i have walked and you have watched me go.
you have watched me go and said nothing,
and you have said nothing and sat still, great egg.

 

francine j. harris was born in Detroit, Michigan. She earned a BA in English from Arizona State University in 1997 and an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 2011. She is the author of play dead (Alice James Books, 2016) which was the winner of a 2017 Lambda Literary Award and the Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry and was a finalist for the 2017 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and allegiance (Wayne State University Press, 2012), which was a finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the PEN Open Book Award. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem and the National Endowment for the Arts, and she currently serves as the writer in residence at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.