Devil’s Lake

Spring 2013 Issue

Vievee Francis: Altruism

Given the torch, given the Wild Turkey, given

the reason, given the moment, given away,

given another reason, given the window

where the night holds its cold indifference,

given the shots and the stars in their black wraps,

given that party (you know the one) with smoke

and champagne and paintings you wanted to swim

inside of, given the way you—

given hunger,

so many kinds of hunger, given the restaurants,

the cafes, the bistros and diners where all

the loud beauties flaunt their wares, where all

that rage comes in a tight dress, given that kind

of sophistication, that craves its own reflection

and finds it, given (and it is a given) your desire

as an abyss none can fill or fathom, given the received

needs of men and women to be pleased and please,

given the construction of a bird’s nest of pain, a bundle

of found objects and thin limbs, give me something


give me the fruit I may leave my mark upon

or flesh (willing enough), but something besides lip

and the language of loss, give me the pleasure

of knowing the giving matters to more than the receiver,

given such knowledge give me faith, or

denial, or ruth enough to manage

truth such as it is.

White Mountain

There’s a wind here so strong it shakes this stone house.

A howl from pain and cold, a particular anguish—

Not a foot in a trap, but a foot in a trap and the snow

getting deeper. I look out under the leafless Beech

which I’d take for dead if I didn’t believe in Spring’s coming.

I walk around the property thinking I might happen upon

the source of the sound. How could that howl be wind alone?

Something has snapped in two. Something has been lost

that won’t return in this life. I want to find the mouth of it.

I’m stumbling in a thin coat flapping at my sides. It seems

as if I might ride the horse that haunts me if I could just let go.

Let it take me up crying easily as this wind is lifting me now.

a photo of the author, Vievee Francis VIEVEE FRANCIS is the author of Blue-Tail Fly (Wayne State, 2006) and Horse in the Dark (Northwestern, 2012), which won the Cave Canem Northwestern University Poetry Prize for a second collection. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best American Poetry 2010 and Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of African American Poetry. She received a 2009 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award as well as a 2010 Kresge Award. She is currently at home in the Blue Ridge. More from this issue >