francine j. harris

suicide note #3: instructions on the cat

dear landlord,

open the storm windows so he can look down

              into the yard where a young man practices tae kwon do. 
                          he bends

                          like the blades of a helicopter. if i were god
              i would still watch.

with no screen.

                                       feed him tuna. pet him often. but mostly

let him watch
                          as the kid chops the air with his hands.

                                 he sees me watching him.
                                 he knows i've seen his belt. he knows

              it is salt lapping at the rainwater left over 
through the screen. we are so high up.

                          sometimes cats also have 

                                 spinning below us with

                          his stick.
                                 a perfect



So we’re all playing “Would you rather …”, you know like “Would you rather be too short or too tall/Would you rather be half deaf or half blind …”, and this skinny model chic says:

So. Like. Would you rather be fat? and the room is already cringing….

              … or raped?

And this is how it goes with dumb chicks, right? They rattle on about silly shit 
and don’t even think before they speak. They say the first stupid cluck of a thing 
that comes to their tongues, right?

And everyone is like Oh Jesus.

                     And she goes:                            Well, I mean. Cause like. If you’re fat
                                                                                                       everyone can see it.
                                                                                                                But if you’re raped.
                                                                                     Then it’s only
                                                                                                       on the inside.

and how the room responds – which they do – respond, cause she says:

                     Well?    I mean.    Like.    You have to choose one.


francine j. harris is originally from Detroit and has recent work appearing in Rattle, Ploughshares, Hanging Loose, and Meridian. Her first collection, allegiance, was published in the spring of 2012 and reached the number one spot on the national poetry bestseller’s list within a month of publication. She is a Cave Canem and Callaloo fellow, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and received her MFA from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she lives, teaches and writes.


Read more work by francine j. harris:


Two Poems in Mead
One Poem in Rattle
One Poem in Boxcar Poetry Review