francine j. harris

where you could sit up straight

i have walked with half a skull and i have walked

with a blanch shell. i have walked, legs

split hungry, and i have walked too old. 

and my body bones around the middle.

and i sling open on eye to the white

whale of you, blowing up spittle and gorge

and chunks of barnacle hunkered

between two ankles where i have

inched close to a dribble, a crawl,

a hunkering over like a fat, black man, white chested,

carrying the fragile egg of us over weighted ice. i have walked

on thick toes and you never said a word. i have walked,

hands out of gloves, i have walked.

dragged sled with you slumped over in it.

and we have fallen on the ice. we have fallen

with our glass bottles of milk and boiled water,

and our hands cut up. i have walked carrying roof siding,

and wool bedding and fat. and i have walked carrying nails

between fingers, and i have walked with wood

and enough ocean floor to build you

small rooms where you could sit up straight.

i have walked and you have watched me go.

you have watched me go and said nothing,

and you have said nothing and sat still, great egg.



“where you could sit up straight” was first published in Hunger Mountain, 2014, and is from play dead (Alice James Books, 2016).