sift by francine j. harris

Madison | by Davis Blackwell

i am not all water

nor does the cue ball sink me

nor the cowboy rope me nor the monk

sit through me.

i am a thousand faces at

the bottom of the bottom’s gravel. the

sea sharpened stones that clink and

soundless shift

make one.


i am not all river

not the sand on the tongue’s first someone

or even a falling star.

i am all tooth and nail breaks

that bitter underwater

and a million years of sea-smash

dirt in your eye to dig out.

i am not all nigger:

a black hole crooning in the night

a country song in a deep jukebox

chewed down and rumbling.

so who decides

who belongs here,

which tooth should have been kicked out when.

which hole ought to be filled, this

is what i think:

every city has a country bar.

i am not always so tough when i walk in.

what is rain to the desert

is just another full mouth in some place like portland.

and i wonder if there are niggers here in oregon.

black-out dolls, wet and papery

their mouths full of chalk.

and some of you

don’t go here either

looking for ground to settle

or a place to sit that isn’t soggy and cold. same here.

everything grows damp, eventually.

anything can fall in.

i can put on a bad face, understand.

i can gunload and prostrate. could swallow you whole in any town.

i could keep from throwing the beer bottle, too.

keep from tearing up the green with my teeth.

but can i keep from being silt

from slipping wherever i go

and is everything something to rot

for our eyes to wriggle out of.

but, i am not all guilty.

nor can i be all sea.

this is just

a bone song. one we can both whistle along the skin to

in a skulk drag, down

through the rift.



francine j harris
francine j. harris

Originally published in Mead Magazine.

See all the pieces from 29 Days of Beautiful here.


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