Lately I’ve come to the fulcrum
and been aside too far.
Puffy-faced in shibboleth, I walk from the Chicago stop
into the fusillade of lakewind.
My morning is bereft.
The ice in my lungs talismans smoker’s years
and the library door is too heavy today.
There is no respite, though I’d likely sleep
if I dare in the stacks next to my office,
curl up with a tome for pillow
my clothing at once too meek,
my skin the paper,
last night’s bellyfull of
soup kitchen kindness via church dictum,
my head aware of quiet hours
one ear alert for the librarian
coming to plug the shelfgaps and scatter
the unruly of Streeterville drawn
into this warmth, the glow of fluorescents
angels at dawn
All These Women
Good morning to you, Mr. Harrison
who died without ado though
I was more than a little taken aback
when I read the news—on my smartphone
on the toilet—and couldn’t wait to tell someone
specifically my wife who has read you
and loves what Hollywood did to your novella
though I recall all the women I knew who loved
the way you wrote women
such insight—was this the product of sustained attention
or storybook love or were there women from the beginning
cooing around you as you squirmed in Michigan grass
women who taught you to be among them
and then men who taught you to drink and fight
against the bullies who saw in your glass eye
their own fallow guts.
Were the cocaine and the bottle to blame,
or the outlets of someone who understood
too well his wife and his daughters?
How did you cultivate this ability
without sacrificing the grand posture?
I’m thinking of my mother
In her car leaving to work
and me with her ex-mother-in-law
cooking oatmeal and yelling her daughter’s name
the staid voices, the way they all seemed so light and loud
all these women I have
to tell me what you apparently knew
I’m walking then with them
to school where nuns will scare us all to death.
The dream ended without pomp.
There was little else to sift
just fragments of some sunken dirge
wayward missives, my mind taking out
the trash of whatever beset the day.
Yet I felt more unease in the dark
than any boyhood premonition
the certainty that a grizzly, dumb
destiny awaits, only patient as long
as the night, and the night was still
clinging to the side of the hull
absent more than a single purpose.
And there was nothing else to do
but relent, cry, accept the perfect child
the nightmare had me.
As a boy, I was told that God was omnipresent
watching my every endeavor,
to watch myself, guard against the impure
act or thought, it made no difference—
however small it may seem
nothing escapes the Supreme Being.
How to react to God the spy?
No mention of why exactly
he needed to know my activity
real or imagined, one and the same,
apparently both causes for shame.
How else to react? I placed out of sight
those thoughts I wanted to conceal
in my mind’s bottom drawer
and hid them from the omnipotent voyeur
unconcerned with how I feel
and how it felt to get up to
what I got up to at night,
which felt oh so good.
If you said you’d kill yourself
before the week was through
I’d feel the conflict
of a whippoorwill
or of the hand that pilots
a drone and considers
every remote dot
weighs their sentience
ponders the lot
and passes sentence
Vincent Francone is a writer from Chicago whose memoir, Like a Dog, was published in the fall of 2015. He won first place in the 2009 Illinois Emerging Writers Competition (Gwendolyn Brooks Award) and is at work on a collection of poems and stories. Visit www.vincentfrancone.com to read his work or say hi.