Poem: “Given to Rust” by Poet Vievee Elaure Francis

0 Posted by - January 9, 2021 - Black History, History, LATEST POSTS

Vievee Elaure Francis is an American poet. She is an associate professor of English at Dartmouth College. She earned an MFA from the University of Michigan in 2009, and she received a Rona Jaffe Award the same year. She is the author of three collections of the poetry, the third of which, Forest Primeval, won the 2016 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for poetry and the 2017 Kingsley Tufts (Kingsley and Kate Tufts Poetry Awards) poetry award

Francis is a native of Texas. She lived and worked in Detroit, Michigan for fifteen years where she was instrumental in fostering a literary community for youth, young-adult and adult poets. From there, she moved to Swannanoa, North Carolina while teaching at Warren Wilson College (undergraduate) and eventually North Carolina State University.

Francis teaches English and writes poetry at Dartmouth College. She is also an associate editor of Callaloo (journal). Prior to joining Dartmouth, she taught writing and poetry at North Carolina State University among other colleges and universities.

Given to Rust

by Vievee Francis

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.

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