Poem of the Week | March 24, 2014

This week we feature a new poem by Laura Van Prooyen. Van Prooyen’s work is forthcoming or appears in The American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Ploughshares, and The Southern Review. She is a recipient of grants from the American Association of University Women and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, and also was awarded a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg prize for her poems. She is the author of Inkblot and Altar (Pecan Grove Press, 2006). Her second collection of poems, Our House Was on Fire, is forthcoming from Ashland Poetry Press, to be released January 2015. Van Prooyen teaches creative writing at Henry Ford Academy: Alameda School for Art + Design in San Antonio, TX.
Author’s note:

Birds and other recurring figures refused to stop appearing in my work when I wrote my second book: Our House Was on Fire. As I broke away from that manuscript, I decided I needed to shift gears. I self-imposed a mandate for new poems: no husbands, no daughters, and no birds. The result is a series of poems loosely based on childhood memories and an elusive character from my history named Frances.

To be honest, Frances remains a bit of a mystery to me. This series is quite new, and I find that more than ever, I’m writing in the direction of the unknown. “Location: Frances” is an attempt to understand the relationship between Frances and the speaker, and to position the character in time and place. Frances permeates the land and the speaker’s personal narrative, but she’s proving to defy literal and linear translation.


Location: Frances

When I say Frances, I mean the maple trunk
bulging through the chain-link fence. I mean the pit bull
with spiked collar who lives on the other side.


I say Frances, and I sound like a leaking bike tire.
Frances: my purple Schwinn, my flowered banana-seat.
My legs pumping through the subdivision


that springs from the field. Frances
rides on the air. You might say, I don’t understand,
and I’d say, This is not my voice. It’s something


in the leaves that keeps speaking. Something that saw me
as a child, rubbed a coin on the sole of my foot, charmed.
When I say Frances, I mean a woman. I mean


a place. The dead cling to the land. The living cling
to a story that, like currency, changes hands.