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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, January 29, 2018.
About this Poem 
“After the 2016 election, I was having a tough time writing, and then I started designing a class on contemporary lineation. I used Robert Hass's approach to form, beginning with the monostich and the integrity of a single line, in order to introduce the semester. So this poem came out of that thought process, and it helped me start writing again. I was trying to avoid thinking of the single line as a quip or pun, and wanted to preserve a moment in every line. For me, it sort of turned into hope.”
—francine j. harris
 

Single Lines Looking Forward. or One Monostich Past 45

The joke is orange. which has never been funny.

For awhile I didn’t sleep on my bright side.

Many airplanes make it through sky.

The joke is present. dented and devil.

For awhile, yellow spots on the wall.

Obama on water skis, the hair in his armpits, free.

I thought the CIA was operative. 

Across the alley, a woman named Mildred.

Above the clouds in a plane, a waistline of sliced white.

I don’t sound like TED Talk, or smart prose on Facebook.

These clouds are not God. 

I keep thinking about Coltrane; how little he talked. 

This is so little; I give so little.

Sometimes when I say something to white people, they say “I’m sorry?”

During Vietnam, Bob Kaufman stopped talking. 

The CIA was very good at killing Panthers. 

Mildred in a housecoat, calling across the fence, over her yard.

If I were grading this, I’d be muttering curses.

The joke is a color. a color for prison.

Is it me, or is the sentence, as structure, arrogant?

All snow, in here, this writing, departure.

All miles are valuable. all extension. all stretch.

I savor the air with both fingers, and tongue.

Mildred asks about the beats coming from my car.

I forgot to bring the poem comparing you to a garden.

Someone tell me what to say to my senators.

No one smokes here; in the rain, I duck away and smell piss.

I thought the CIA was. the constitution.

I feel like he left us, for water skis, for kitesurfing. 

The sun will not always be so gracious.

From the garden poem, one line stands out.

Frank Ocean’s “Nights” is a study in the monostich.

Pace is not breathing, on and off. off.

Mildred never heard of Jneiro Jarel.

I’m afraid one day I’ll find myself remembering this air.

The last time I saw my mother, she begged for fried chicken. 

My father still sitting there upright, a little high.  

Melissa McCarthy could get it.

Sometimes, I forget how to touch.

In a parking garage, I wait for the toothache.

I watch what I say all the time now.

She said she loved my touch, she used the word love.

In 1984, I’d never been in the sky.

My mother walked a laundry cart a mile a day for groceries.

Betsy DeVos is confirmed. with a broken tie.

Mildred’s five goes way up, and my five reaches. 

Copyright © 2018 by francine j. harris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 29, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by francine j. harris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 29, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

francine j. harris

francine j. harris

francine j. harris is the author of play dead (Alice James Books, 2016).

by this poet

poem

(November 9, 2016)

 

O trail up outta here, how long ago
            you started to wander, crawling milkweed
through dependence, in grope toward sprawl
            dominion. Rather red in your rove from southern transition,

thick of land use, what

poem

Because the tube is turned to the window, the neighbor’s buddy         coughs
a cough of pigeons. a hack of grackle. a bird out the window. It’s         like

the neighbor’s buddy on my ledge, smoking. The neighbor’s                 chum in the blinds,
the eyes that peer, the eyes that open. propped

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