Ars Poetica

Francine J. Harris, Khadijah Queen, & Natasha Marin

Between Old Trees
—francine j. harris

there's a rain formed. it has a face that reminds you

of hills. it has a country you could name if you were smarter.
it has a kind of mouth. it seems wrecked from all the commotion
of a windstorm. it has tear ducts, and what does that say about
you. it lives by the hope that someday again, there may
be bluing in a backyard wash, so far off
the sky. this is why children
chalk suns on the sidewalk. the wind brings north
through a hundred miles
of inanimate things.

when it hits, all the places you have been
seem too late to talk about. all is gray
that storms, and it crosses the country on busses,
looks for burned trash, hopes to see enough rivers,
hums something you can't quite remember
but still you sleep. still, you wear no shoes
against the pavement and sometimes
the lightning, sometimes a wet rail

you lean over.

(Purification: Wolf Moon)
—Khadijah Queen


I stood in the earth's skull & swept

my fur skirts clean, I grew tall

& taller, shed the dust,

shed supple hunch, crown of wild

dandelion & ate it; humid breath

stretched my weedy neck & bent

my arms into scythes: blue-tongued

& sharp-mouthed, I stood

between beasts & thorn trees & waited:


I heard a howling, but did not run

I heard a howling, but did not run

I heard a howling, but did not run

Dokuya: Poisoned Arrow
from The Kanji Notebooks
—Natasha Marin

A Haitian woman returns home
to find curdled bodies drawing flies.
Among the gangrenous body parts—her sister's hands.

Ten thousand bodies decompose
beneath the rocks. They don't make a sound
and no one is listening.

A man like Jesus is naked except
for a towel. The ground under his body
is streaked with blood and still quakes.

Before administering the anesthesia,
her sister's eyes look up with a question:
but her mouth doesn't move as her hands are taken.


In celebration of Ars Poetica (2010), Rachel Eliza Griffiths' exhibition of photographs of Cave Canem faculty and fellows, the Poetry Society of America is presenting a selection of her portraits, each one accompanied by a poem from a Cave Canem poet she has captured on film.

As the poet Nikky Finney remarks "Because of her gifted, mindful pressing private eye on us, we discover what we could never completely see before, all around us, could never completely find before, right there in full shadow and slated sun, not even with our own two eyes: All of every bit of who we are."


Photo from left to right: francine j. harris, Khadijah Queen, and Natasha Marin.

francine j. harris' poem originally appeared in Eleven Eleven Journal, issue #6, 2009. Reprinted with the permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Khadijah Queen's poem is reprinted with the permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Natasha Marin's poem is reprinted with the permission of the author. All rights reserved.

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