“HAPPY?”

by Vievee Francis

List to a Tale of Love in Acadie, / home of the happy.
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie”

HAPPY?

I would not say so. Rather, settled
in this moment where no axe falls.

And one might wonder why
not happy in such an idyllic place—

with more trees than might be named
and the blooms ever blooming

in a heat seemingly ceaseless
as the red-throated woodpeckers,

as the tree frogs mating endlessly
on the same limbs a black bear might

loll from, indolent and berry-full.
You have heard me say, Nature

will have its way. That we build
only way stations. I was proud.

I thought I understood, but
now I have come to this ridge,

which wrests its toll: my sleep
grows longer, my dreams follow

into my days. I have begun to name
the birds by their feathering, their calls

and clamor: nightjar, flicker, plover, shrike.
Before the mountain I knew the incinerated

cities. I knew another South. But that
was before I was another. The one

I am becoming as roots reclaim
this soil, as what is felled takes on

a form it could not have imagined,
whose seeds had always rested below

like a sorrow of banjoes.

vievee-fancis-810
Vievee Francis. Photo by Eli Burakian

VIEVEE FRANCIS is the author of Blue-Tail Fly, Horse in the Dark, and Forest Primeval, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry. She is an associate professor at Dartmouth College and an associate editor for Callaloo.

From Forest Primeval: Poems. ©2016 by Vievee Francis. Published 2016 by TriQuarterly/
Northwestern University Press. All rights reserved.

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