The Plain of Sudden Circumstance

by Vievee Francis, Southfield

(Texas Panhandle, 1998)

Moving west
he watches the trees grow shorter
until they are tripped over
as tumbleweeds that surround

a pink house
peeling just one storm after
reminiscent of a torn dress;
it seems to be crying

from a distance.
Six miles before
the basket he can see
laundry hanging
in the dirty heat
that smells

of biscuits and pork.
The nearest neighbor
is twenty minutes by truck
over the flats and gulfs
of trickster territories
that lead the eye to believe

canyons are mere
hoof-marks or
snake-holes, like
the one that took
that nosy girl's arm
last season. Searching
for trouble
with a long stick
and burlap

things come up on you
an Armageddon of lightning
when it moves

over dog towns.
Next morning
you can find their skeletons
bleached as heifer skulls
in the summer.

Nothing is got easy.
She builds a well in the flour
and cornmeal, then adds
oil before pounding
out the breads.

Her son watches and learns
to hate her hands
but eats from them

anyway. The boy tolerates it
along with countless suppers
of tortillas, beans and such.

One morning
after milking, he will decide,
"I'm gonna marry a flat woman - flat as the Llano."
His wife will be consoling,
in the way nothing will be
Her certain lack
of mystery
will comfort as rare
rain that smoothes
the droughted


The cemetery and garden soil are
kept by Fire-ants.
They crawl up a leg
as this one prays
for a deceased wife

or claim the leg
of that one digging up
a cool watermelon –
exacting a fee for a sweet
draft of juice.

Spiders bind the cactus
and its tender, so
only ferns sit on the window-

He saw snow three times
last year and it lasted
three days,

some would say
there's significance there
in that odd number,
those same would pay attention
to the creek swell and
comment on an abundance
of tadpoles
splashing in water
>no deeper than the knees.

–Vievee Francis, Southfield

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