Vievee E. Francis - Br'er Rabbit's Hole
Br'er Rabbit's Hole
As I fell, bits of this and that caught
in my hair--more cotton
candy than wool, and if wool, the wool
of a days old lamb--thin and whitening.
Into its sugared mass. went whatever found its way
to the ground or had been ground under:
a brittle piece of leaf,
thorns of the allthorn, a feather
from the swallow
as it burst from the allthorn,
blades of winter-grass, inedible
berries, the bitter tips of sticks,
a blond strand, then another then
another then a hairball of straw,
cactus spines, a sun-blanched blossom
of the prickly pear. I became my own
of detritus and desire, my own perpetual roil
of hair ever growing out
even as I fell
I followed him. It was on me.
He was so furtive, almost
sincere in his urgency, constantly checking his watch,
slicking back his hair, wetting his palm
in a way that said take a good look at my tongue,pink
as the inside of his lips.
No one saw me drop. Everyone was looking elsewhere.
I was known for not being known. For all intents
and purposes invisible.
He kept looking from side to side, but
no one was looking back at him either.
They were doing whatever the mundane
morning demanded. Cocky bastard –
He didn’t know I was following him.
That’s how good a tumbler I was. No white puff
of fluff for me. No bunny rabbit, he was a jack,
a hare, dun and lanky, quick to run, hiding in
a shirt and jacket, feral as fuck.
He was a Trickster. Tall enough
to appear to be standing straight
from a distance.
An elongated torso on enormous feet
(that meant absolutely nothing except
he loped and couldn’t find good shoes).
I, his tar baby, his sticky wicket, couldn’t
put his hands on, couldn’t take his hands off.
Despite my eyes. I should have known,
considering his temperament,
how easily offended he was. How easily lit.
What didn’t scare him? Everything
set him off (and running), everything: a breeze,
a wave, dancers, skyscrapers, dandelions, a bird
appearing suddenly, my questions, my silence.
Aren’t rabbits beautiful? All that shiver and hustle.
When I hit the first bottom, the false
bottom, there was a cat waiting for me.
He took me on the real drop.
Hell. That cat was a Trickster too.
A smile so charming, who wouldn’t follow?
Often since, I wonder how good they were,
or how easily I can be fooled. I knew the hole
was there. I followed that hare down.
I would have followed him anywhere.
It the same with my father.
Foolish little girl.
I have an ugly face when I cry, so no one stops
to comfort me. I barrel along like a boy with a hoop.
You are wondering how I lived to tell the tale.
How I got back? I grabbed that cat’s whipping tail
and held on (he screeched until
everyone I knew heard) but I’m clumsy.
Couldn’t hold on.
How far down is down?
I’m stuck on a ledge.
Up is a dream that only comes
in sleep and that too is a dream –
if I sleep too deeply
under my comforter
and I am so
I never knew his real name,
so how could I recognize the game?
I furrowed my brow and pretended
I knew what I was doing.
I didn’t put all my cards on the table.
What fool would do that?
I wanted to be a Windy. I wanted
it spelled the way it sounds.
Someone light that any sweet breeze
could carry away. To fly above
and away. Not so different than falling,
just look at what happened to that
boy who followed his father up
on those white wax wings.
Vievee Francis is the author of Blue-Tail Fly (Wayne State University Press, 2006), Horse in the Dark (Northwestern University Press, 2012), and Forest Primeval (Northwestern University Press, 2016), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry. She is an associate professor in creative writing and poetry at Dartmouth College and an associate editor for the Academy of American Poets in 2019.