Hymn To Life

Lizzie Francis (Brooklyn, NY)

It rained today,
a big one. The kind that cracks the linoleum sky, clouds like pipes 
 bursting through the ceilings until God turns the water to the house off.
I should clarify: I probably don’t believe in God, but I don’t like to state absolutes. To re-visit: my mom says I only make declarative
statements. Will consider this idea later, maybe while stationary on
the elliptical at my gym, one-room, un-air conditioned, crawling
with red mites that I looked up on the internet when I found them on the asphalt of my deck. They eat plants, and I’m growing
five! I’ve never grown anything. Imagine my surprise, on an afternoon of wage labor in a sandwich shop

inundated with mayonnaise
and white Brooklyn moms with voices higher pitched
than their own children, to find life, budding on a deck covered in
beer cans, sunbleached, 365 days in the sun. I think this neighborhood
was once darker, but my people came and pillaged it,
like they did all things. And now they want mayonnaise
enemas and pickled kale sandwiches, and to sound five years old.
The feminist in me thinks, “Any woman can have any voice they want,” and

I’m thinking of riptides,
like the real thing, and the intense fear of drowning, tasting blood in my lungs, my eyeballs bulging out from my skull, terrified. I am not
scared of the rain, but I still pulled my plants underneath an
awning, afraid they would drown. I think most babies are
ugly. I don’t feel guilty about this, but wonder if I should. Every
once in a while I consider what it means that I was born with
these tadpoles, half-souls, nebulous cells in my belly, and now they’re
getting more and more stale, but it doesn’t push me to make child.
My love sits across from me and wears a Mountain Dew t-shirt in
our friend’s place on Delancey. When the train across the platform
exits the station, the rhythm of its underbelly hitting the spokes makes a sound like this: kadunkunk, kadunkunk, kadunkunk.
Go ahead, try it. It is late May already, and cold.
The swelling grey of the late afternoon let me sleep ‘til one, a mistake that only has one victim:

my own body.
I wonder
if my bones are hurtling through time faster than my brain is.
When we make love, my Liam and I, my hips creak and ache,
as though I were eighty years old already, with the
hunger of a never satisfied lion cub.
Sometimes we bite and yelp like puppies. My calves, too, are too tight, my muscles revealing me for what I really am on the inside
– a type A personality. It feels hard to say this,
a confession of sorts, a lot like saying,
“I don’t like slam poetry,” or “Maybe 9/11 was an inside job,”
the kind of confession that makes everyone look at
you differently. Once, as a child, wanting desperately to be more adult,
I shaved my face, cutting it, and lay one of my mother’s tampons in the hammock of my underwear, unopened, not inserted.
I sat through dinner at the kitchen table, acutely aware of my own womanhood, feeling the beginnings of budding tissue on my hips. I am
21 and still laugh

every time I hear the word “duty.”
Today, on account of sleeping in, I am going to be late to therapy,
but for once, I don’t feel all that bad about it. As much as it rains
from the sky, I wonder how much more my eyes drip, faulty faucets, weak and sad. I wonder the first time I cried in front of you, and I can’t remember, except I can remember the first time I really held
back tears, before we were in love, and we were in my bed, my eyes stinging
with your cum, and you told me, “I always end up disappearing,” or maybe you said, “I don’t get close to people because I’m afraid I’ll
disappear,” but either way, it felt like a blow to the chest, and I kept
my eyes closed tight, until the moment I had to ask you what you were to me. What amazes me most about music, I think, is how it defines
periods of time.

Every time I hear Gucci Mane
I remember being 18 in Texas with my best friend, driving around
East Dallas, blasting ninety seven point nine the beat the hip hop station,
unfeeling of the inescapable tethers of fate, which were
pressing bags under our eyes already. Denim shirts and over-tweezed- eyebrows, my life then was not any more or less difficult than it is now.
I do not believe age makes things more complicated.
I believe that life is hard all the time. Sometimes, the weight of those
burdens begin to crush me and I’m not sure I have a way out. People who say time is a construct are dead wrong. The seasons change,
the hours come and go. People die. People live, too: warm weather
in New York brings the hibernating bodies out of their caves, makes me remember how many people really live here. There is no space,
just pockets of distance between bodies, and I weave in and out of them
like a metaphor hopefully better than a street rat. Like a hummingbird.
Tiny beating heart, addicted to sugar. So much space for the hummingbird.
Then again, I try not to think about space, which makes me feel even more small, because I like the idea of being important in some way. It’s the self-
centered human in me, the small part of me that exists in all of us, and
was surely crying out when Ptolemy posited that

the sun revolved around us,
not the other way around. I’m riding the shuttle train.
. My therapist is leaving the practice, going to work in hospitals. I
shudder to think that after a year I still feel only barely better
than I did before.

Is it my fault?
Let’s ask the latest poll nationwide, if they think, on a scale of
agree to strongly disagree, whether or not I am a waste of space.
I know somehow that there are more TVs than people in the United States
but facts like that don’t strike me, the way we all can ignore third world tragedies, forest fires thousands of miles away.
It rained again tonight. Probably, this poem is pretentious.
Probably, I do not know what comes next, except I can say this:
my friend only eats a bowl of granola every day and I am worried for her. Faces on the train, on the street, are all so common,
so much so that walking through a crowded street is the same
sensation as several lonely acres. Trust, when surrounded
by too much life, we all shut it out,
carve out sad, small spaces, once again unfeeling.

I will never own a summer home,
but I love summer all the same, a phenomenon I will only experience
once more. I want to slap the man who came up with bottled water.
It is clear to me now: I will never be Schuyler, nor Donnelly, Zucker or Hayes.
In a sense, I do recognize that these hands: short, stubby fingers, big fat palms, will be mine until I die, just as they are my father’s and
my grandfather’s. I know nothing about the Midwest, except
for it’s unusually high membership of the KKK. I find this
surprising. I remember the moment my mother
told me my grandmother was raped. I was 13 in Colorado,
walking along a mountain path, sun setting. My aunt was there too. I wanted
to cry and my mother didn’t understand my upset. My memory wants to write in cicadas, but that is probably not right,

it was probably crickets,
instead, that were deafening to my ears. I am happy
with this poem like a sensible and exciting purchase. Useful, but pretty.
The 2 Train drudges forward, taking me home, where I will
be alone for the first time in a while. This must be good for me, but feels not so, like an addict pulled from the source. I know of a hummingbird which becomes addicted to a single flower, protecting it ‘til its own death. I
must say it again, because I can’t believe it myself: California is running out of water, and maybe I’ll never eat another avocado again. Thousands of years
ago, if we told the trees they would be massacred and replaced for smog,
concrete, electric billboards, talking cars, they would have not believed us. Nevertheless,

taxis come to an aching stop,
growling, sad to stand still. Exhaust furls out of their
bodies like an eternal Cuban cigar. Once, a cab driver drove right
past my home, because my love’s hands were on my pussy and
I was breathing loud into his neck. Maybe then, when before
we got in the cab home, his cock was already hard, I knew one day he
might love me. Still, the words from his mouth, only two weeks
into our relationship were a shock, like when that Germanwings
flight catapulted into the earth, the mountains. What a way to
die. If I die young, it will surely be by my own hand,
but let’s not talk about that.

I am here now,
alone in my own ways, like the last icicle from a freeze, defiantly
dripping blood in the winter sunlight. For that, I am grateful, for the
oxygen I breathe Is my own and no one else’s. It will rain all week
and I will hate it, but in the end, the weather doesn’t
matter, just that, really, time is going forward, with or without us,
and I have my hand in the train doors of fate, and they’ve
shut on me, crushing my wrist, and I have no idea if
going to open for me, but I pray to God that they
will.