katherine with the lazy eye. short. and not a good poet.
This morning, I heard you were found in your McDonald’s uniform.I heard it while I was visiting a lake town, where empty woodsy highwaysturn into waterside drives. I’d forgotmy toothbrush and was brushing with my finger, when a friendwho didn’t know you said he heard it like this: You know Katherine. Short.with a lazy eye. Poet. Not a very good one. Yeah, well she died. the blueon that lake fogs off into the horizon like styrofoam. The picnic tablesfull of white people. I ask them where the coffee is. They say at Meijer.I wonder if you thought about getting out of Detroit. When you read at the open mikeyou’d point across the street at McDonald’s and told us to come see you.Katherine with the lazy eye. short and not a good poet, I guess I almost cried.I don’t know why, because I didn’t like you. This is the first time I remembered your name.I didn’t like how you followed around a married man. That your poems suckedand that I figured they were all about the married man.That sometimes you reminded me of myself, boy crazy. That sometimesI think people just don’t tell me that I’m kind of, well…slow.Katherine with the lazy eye, short. and not a good poet.I didn’t like your lazy eye always looking at me. That you called meby my name. I didn’tlike you, since the first time I saw you at McDonald’s.You had a mop. And you were letting some homeless dudeflirt with you. I wondered then, if you thought that was the bestyou could do. I wondered then if it was.Katherine with the lazy eye, short, and not a good poet.You were too silly to wind up dead in an abandoned building.I didn’t like you because, what was I supposed to tell you. What.Don’t let them look at you like that, Katherine. Don’t let them get you alone.You don’t get to laugh like that, like nothing’s gonna get you. Not everyonewill forgive the slow girl. Katherinewith the fucked up eye, short. Poetry sucked, musta’ knew better. I avoided youin the hallway. I avoided you in lunch line. I avoided you in the lake.I avoided you. My lazy eye. Katherine with one hideous eye, shit.Poetry for boys again, you should have been immune. you were supposedto be a cartoon. your body was supposed to be as twisted asit was gonna get. Short. and not a good poet. Katherinewith no eye no more. I avoided you, hated it, when you said my name. Ireally want to leave Detroit. Katherine the lazy short.not a good poet. and shit. Somewhere someone has already askedwhat was she like, and a woman has brought out her wallet and saidThis is her. This is my beautiful baby.
Copyright © 2012 by francine j. harris
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
francine j. harris is the author of allegiance (2012, Wayne State University Press), a finalist for both the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the PEN Open Book Award; and play dead (2016, Alice James Books). Her poetry has appeared in many journals, including McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, Poetry, Meridian, Indiana Review, Callaloo, and Boston Review. A 2008 Cave Canem fellow, she has also won the 2014 Boston Review Annual Poetry Contest and was awarded a 2015 NEA fellowship.
"What grounds this collection more than anything is its problematic relationship with Detroit, a city undergoing bankruptcy and governmental restructuring. Detroit is like family to this poet, and only family members can talk this way about their own and still love them at the same time. Take for instance the poem 'i live in detroit,' which is a ghazal and echoes both the beauty and the ugly in Detroit, expressing the dualism in urban centers and in human relationships: 'there are plenty of violets in flophouses. pistils broken open on forty-ounce mouth lids making honeybees bastards in detroit.' Through end stops and clever enjambment the reader is kept on edge, waiting for the next epiphany."
—Randall Horton, LA Review of Books
"In her debut collection, allegiance, francine j. harris makes an instrument of each poem. Somehow both surgical and blunt, the poems sing. That is, they will wake your neighbors. These poems highlight the limits of propriety, but what might appear to be irreverence is devotion cleansed of pretense. The object of Harris's devotion is often Detroit, and like the city she loves, the poems have little patience for sentimentality. They'll snatch you up by the collar, throw you in a chair and make you listen. And then, line by line, these poems will break your heart."
"Very strong and contrasting figures emerge in francine j. harris's memorable first collection of poems. There is an odd lyric telegraphing here just in the way strobe lighting carries movement, or serial narrative, in the dark. These are tropes of knowledge in a time of great ignorance. This is a wonderful book of poems."