Frances of the Wider Field
Poetry by Laura Van Prooyen
Van Prooyen’s poems have clarity and ferocity, a wild imaginative grace that captures the joy and strangeness of our most intimate and familiar experiences–
Sheila Black, Author of Iron, Ardent
Avenue F Looking for you in the street, I said to the crab apple tree, You are Frances. To asbestos shingles, What keeps you in place? A car with new Firestones stopped at the light rumbles, We will never die though your hands could do more work. I remember you wringing starched sheets between rollers, hanging them on the line to dry. I’ve never been that clean in all my life. God will never reward me in the way I hope. Frances, you polished the baby’s shoes. You made silver shine. You pinned prayers to your head and shook floor mats free of stones. The street can’t hold my desires. Who painted those white lines? Frances, there’s a dog in the road. San Antonio Dogs Dear Happiness: Tonight a trio of dogs sat at the crosswalk waiting for the light to change. Red. I stopped. They trotted across the street, two mottled mutts and a Chihuahua whose legs spun like wheels to keep up. Right across San Pedro and down the sidewalk, their tails up, noses pointed toward purpose. Dear Happiness: I never cared for dogs, but they’re everywhere here. When I miss my mother, who was once the mother of all happiness, I see dogs. San Antonio dogs. The one in Olmos Basin, a scrappy mix of ribs and hunger hurrying across the road. Or the stray I found panting in a shred of shade under an agave in whose muddy eyes spun the tires of the Buick Le Sabre from the summer vacation when my mother nearly drove us into the lake. Dear Happiness: What laughter when flecked with mud! Or so it once was, when laughter was easy. More often now, I drive Frio Avenue to work. Not that there’s not happiness in high tension wires, in bouncing over the tracks by the building with Monterrey Lounge faded on bricks, where knotted curtains in wide-open windows swing. Where, on the roof of the garage, a bullish dog rushes out to the rusted edge barking down onto the street. He runs so fast, I fear he’s not going to stop. One day when that dog wasn’t there I circled the block, waited at the curb, but vacancy jabbed sharper than his barks. How thin the air felt without him guarding the roofline, without his body, dirty white, like tissues my mother used to tuck into her Sunday purse.
About the Author
Laura Van Prooyen is author of two earlier collections of poems, Our House Was on Fire and Inkblot and Altar. She is also co-author with Gretchen Bernabei of Text Structures from Poetry, a book of writing lessons for educators. A graduate of the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers, Van Prooyen serves as Managing Editor of The Cortland Review and lives in San Antonio, TX.