Vievee Francis - "The Scale of Empire"
Contributor
Written by
Khadijah Queen
April 2011
Contributor
Written by
Khadijah Queen
April 2011

Vievee Francis from Art X Detroit on Vimeo.

Vievee Francis - "The Scale of Empire" from Blue-Tail Fly (Wayne State University Press 2006)

 

Vievee's work is powerful and visionary. She takes poetry seriously and demands readers do the same - not with cleverness or posturing, but with incredible skill and wisdom.  There's much to gain and learn from her words on multiple levels, each as hard hitting as the next. Here's a representative favorite of mine.

 

THE SCALE OF EMPIRE

 

Yet the most distinctive, and perhaps the most impressive,

characteristic of American scenery is its wildness.

Thomas Cole, founder, Hudson River School

 

The wood that engulfs

an empire of stone

cares only to maintain itself,

 

to green again the decadent

progressions – discovery,

desperation. Our delusion:

 

digging into the earth

that submits only temporarily.

Eventually, the vine creeps across

 

The well-swept patio, up the walls,

then through, under the iron rails.

The overwrought towers bend

 

to the runners thin as twine,

and eventually stand only in memory

as ruins even the rats won't enter.

 

Cut back the undergrowth,

seize the molding dead below,

snip the limbs just at the joint,

 

the discarded apple will have its revenge

in the rotting – feeding the hungry

world that cracks the sidewalk,

 

sating the birds that adapt

to the landscape of cities

as easily as a winged roach

that nests in the paneling.

 

So let us go on –

swatting the locusts that decimate

the ordered fields – insisting upon graphs,

the architecture of command and sequence.

 

The ants have already mastered

the soil. Small emperors of patience,

they walk a bridge of dinosaur bones.

 

 

Audio link to other poems: http://www.fishousepoems.org/archives/vievee_francis/index.shtml

 

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Comments
  • Ellen Steinbaum

    This is wonderful. Thank you for introducing me to her work.

  • Breena Clarke

    an inspired selection of this poem for National Poetry month. It is a wise and radiant/beautiful work with no gaudiness.

  • Wow. Masterful depiction of impermanence.

  • McGuffyAnn Morris

    Visual & powerful.