I’ve heard Francine Witte read her Charley poems on several occasions, and I’ve always enjoyed them, so it had been on my mind to ask her to read them for the blog. Charley is a man (the many men) the poet has dated, and on two occasions even married, a metaphor, a nemesis. There seems to be no getting rid of him. But there’s something appealing about Charley, too—he is with Francine, after all, and although she has said that these Charley poems are sad, they are also triumphant because she survived to write them, and she writes them well. Revenge is not best served cold; perhaps it is best served in a poem.
Francine Witte reads her Charley poems in the Vimeo below.
In Francine Witte’s book Café Crazy the Charley poems are scattered among other poems where every poem is a story told in such a clear way the reader encounters its every surprise and twist as personally as the poet does writing it. Four of these poems follow. Enjoy.
Above all this, above the flat roads
hooded by willows, above the souped-up
shadows that buildings cast, above
all this there is light, the first command
that God gave – light,
switched on, flooding
the universe, that debut
of stars so that eons later
astronauts walking in space,
stabbing small cuts
in the darkness, would know
which way to aim. Light.
Your eyes when somebody
tells you they love you. Light.
What you turn from ending the day.
Listen, historians know nothing
but this: the past
is a scatter behind us.
History is just what got lit.
A piece of the sky breaks off
and falls into your coffee cup.
It makes you wonder how shabby
heaven might be getting and what will
it look like when you get there, if,
in fact, you do. You spoon
the piece from your cup and hold
it between your fingers. It is perfect
and star-shaped, and you realize
that the sky was only making room,
the way your mother’s belly once
made room for you. How you were
once the star she pushed out of her
body, light falling through her thighs.
And now it’s your turn, time to reshape
your mouth, learn the language your
mother now speaks, where she doesn’t
quite remember you and says your name
like it’s a miracle or a bathroom fixture.
You know that soon the earth will have
to change, open its skin and scar itself
back around her coffin. And it’s right
now that you realize that it has taken
you your entire life to learn that sometimes
you have to hold your hand across your
coffee cup to keep the sky from falling in.
Selfie at the End of the World
Like everything else, the apocalypse
will be photographed. Duckface crumble
of skyscrapers, or the twisty scowl of the ground
giving way. Sudden, but not surprising.
You’ll remember the temperature rising
and the earth pulling off its sweater
of foliage and ice. How it all seemed
so distant, but now shows up to photobomb
that last TV reporter, humanity trampling
itself in the background. No selfie stick
long enough to fit seven billion,
so instead you gather a bouquet
of faces around you, strike a pose and shoot.
Man stands in a pumpkin patch,
how he got there, no idea. But
his mind last night was a strangle
of thoughts – the firing, the kitchen
knife his wife came this close
to using. And later, the whiskey
at Lenny’s Dip and Dive and good
old Ray who was able to drive
because the booze was killin’
his ticker, y’know?
……………………………But now, Man
stands alone in a pumpkin patch,
highest thing there, and by all
accounts, the smartest. Figures
he’ll tell these bobble heads a thing
or two about life. But first, he needs
to take a piss. This is the real lesson,
he reckons. One day, you’re fine,
and the next, life is aiming its dick
at your head.
…………………..Now, old Ray
pulls up to the patch, honkin’
and hollerin’ how Man’s old lady
has been calling and also his boss.
But Man waves Ray off, takes
another look at the pumpkins.
Poor bastards, he thinks, up
to their necks in earthdirt, unlike
him, the one with the legs that he
can aim in any direction he wants.
Café Crazy has been published by Kelsay Books. You can check it out here: