Featured Poet: Vievee Francis

I asked my friend and teacher, Vievee Francis, if she would contribute to this blog, and she asked me to pick out my favorite poem (of hers) and post it, so here we go. Vievee is brilliant and there are many poems I could pick, but I am drawn to this one at this moment in time because of the line:

What does it mean/to silence another?

Given to Rust

Every time I open my mouth my teeth reveal

more than I mean to. I can’t stop tonguing them, my teeth.

Almost giddy to know they’re still there (my mother lost hers)

but I am embarrassed nonetheless that even they aren’t

pretty. Still, I did once like my voice, the way it moved

through the gap in my teeth like birdsong in the morning,

like the slow swirl of a creek at dusk. Just yesterday

a woman closed her eyes as I read aloud, and

said she wanted to sleep in the sound of it, my voice.

I can still sing some. Early cancer didn’t stop the compulsion

to sing but

there’s gravel now. An undercurrent

that also reveals me. Time and disaster. A heavy landslide

down the mountain. When you stopped speaking to me

what you really wanted was for me to stop speaking to you. To

stifle the sound of my voice. I know.

Didn’t want the quicksilver of it in your ear.

What does it mean

to silence another? It means I ruminate on the hit

of rain against the tin roof of childhood, how I could listen

all day until the water rusted its way in. And there I was

putting a pan over here and a pot over there to catch it.

Hear Vievee Francis reading this poem

Bio: Vievee Francis is the author of Blue-Tail Fly (Wayne State University Press, 2006), Horse in the Dark (Northwestern University Press, 2012), and Forest Primeval (Northwestern University Press, 2016), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry. She is an associate professor at Dartmouth College and an associate editor for Callaloo.


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