PoetrySnaps! Andie Francis: When My Head Hangs Too Low
Flagstaff-based writer Andie Francis is the featured writer in the latest installment of KNAU's series PoetrySnaps! In her poem When My Head Hangs Too Low, Francis weaves together landscape, grief, and love for a brother she hadn’t seen in many years. It’s set at Gates Pass in the Tucson Mountains. If you’ve ever been there, you know it’s a truly sublime place to watch the sunset.
This piece was written in my MFA program. I was an MFA student at the University of Arizona, and I would go out to Gates Pass in Tucson which is kind of like an overlook. I know they have some hiking trails down there. But, it’s a really nice overlook off of a kind of windy road, and it’s a beautiful place to see the sunset.
So, this was inspired by that experience of going out to Gates Pass. It started in ‘place’ and just thinking about ‘place’, specifically the desert. I was also thinking about ‘myth.’ At the time, my brother…I hadn’t seen him in a long time. He was estranged from our family. So, I was really thinking about my brother as a figure in my life. I wanted to write my brother into this piece.
I was also thinking about love because I was in a relationship, so there were all these ideas circulating about love, and loss, and desert, and place, and desperation, and desire. So, there were all these really big ideas that I was trying to get into a poem. That’s kind of where it came from.
When My Head Hangs Too Low
I head straight for the canyon’s ledge. While waiting, I remember the real
donkey, packless, how its ribs appeared unsafe.
In a mythic rendition, the sun and moon are sister and brother. I am the sister
pulling shallow roots, and I say, see my tough side? And brother responds, no,
I am too far away.
Why, there must be another real donkey to free up this scene. Notice that
picture window in the cactus line right there.
Just as I am rescued by the myth, it changes. The sun and the moon are now
lovers, and the moon is still covered in soot. There’s really nothing he can do.
Purple and orange wring the sky, and I wish I were in my lover’s basement
instead because he has hung paper stars from the ceiling, and we listen to
Woody Guthrie on repeat.
I keep my eyes on this belt buckle of a sun for as long as I can stand.
About the author:
Andie Francis is a Flagstaff-based poet and educator. Her work has appeared in the Berkeley Poetry Review, Greensboro Review, and elsewhere. Her full-length poetry book A Fresh Start Will Put You On Your Way was released last year. Francis is also the poetry editor for Carbon Copy and DIAGRAM.
About the host:
Steven Law is the co-producer of KNAU’s series PoetrySnaps! He is a poet, essayist, storyteller, and the author of Polished, a collection of poems about exploring the Colorado Plateau by foot and by raft.
About the music:
Original music by Flagstaff-based band Pilcrowe.
PoetrySnaps! airs the first and third Friday of each month.