francine j. harris

the day after 12 Years a Slave

              I make a stew. While one side of the landlord’s futon gives out, the other

                           rests on one bolt. It all tips sideways and then


              the mailman’s footprints in snow.


The pot is on the stove,           but the meat is off.

                           Do I throw out the meat. or eat the meat. The meat smells like a

slaughterhouse, it did. when it opened, a dead pigeon lay in a pan.

                                        blowflies.    the squeal of a small calf.


No one mentions the smell on their recipe blog. the snow

                           piles windrift. one screw and then the other.

              The maintenance man is suspicious of callers. also, I think, on heroin.


                           Your control is


                                                  so be it, a fishsauce.     a splatter of thyme and cabbage.


                               The cat is a perched killer. the cutting board smeared parsley.


                                              (Northup had his own tune. choke sometimes. an ulcer of blear.


                                                              I cry at the black rendering. the festival finish.

                  The chair squeals when I forget and fall on it. The house has it now.


                                        It’s all in the curtains. You cook until you have to give up and give in.

                                                          A dutch oven keeps centuries’ vapor.


                                                      and a cow. what became of it. just to wind up in the trash.

                                                                                          A starter. a hope for something right.


                                                                                 I can see it there, marooned.  


                                        There was that breath on the caterpillar.

                                                                                 It ruined the whole crop.



“the day after 12 Years a Slave” first appeared in Spoon River Literary Review, 39.2, Winter 2014.