Search for:

Charlene François

(c) Aslan Chalom


unlivable city

my body wakes spent. all night my eyes have acted as valves of the questions. if the body is the answer then night is the question. if the body is a stroke, the night is its canvas. if the body is overlay then the night is lay. how am I to know if my breast will carry a tumor, if my throat will cry with thrust, if I will lose my sister tomorrow, if my feet will pigeon, and I will lose my legs to bow. write about lineage, okay. write about how your mother must have had a body too, held a wad of tissue paper with the help that was her hipbones, red and coming, taken and breathless with cramps or not. write about how you have yet to know a body like your mother’s: good and then not, swelled with sickness’ demand, spent after an enema. think how she came to hold water in her stomach after you. what kind of unlivable city did you give me as a body,

unlivable city, you’re a peninsula of debt reaching out to a sister island. instead of a bridge there is beg. that heavy one-legged tongue in your mouth, why can you only do one thing, speak one language, why would i sell you any language, identity crisis, gift you a diasporic dilemma. you would like it, wouldn’t you, if i gave you torture on this page. but i am happy and unliveable.


Charlene François has honed her craft through writing workshops at Cave Canem and was a Brooklyn Poets fellowship finalist (Fall 2018). She can be found in all of her poetry, as it is her means of self-reflection and correction. She hopes that for others, her poetry will be somewhere they can sit. Charlene is currently at work on her first collection, entitled homebodies.

See full list of 2019 Emerging Poets Fellows