Francine Witte

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Go On, Count Your Chickens

All of them. What have you gotArtwork by Gene McCormick
to lose? These are not the hard-
boiled, easy-over omelet babies
you’ve been warned about. These
are not the painted up ovals
rolling on the neighbor’s Easter
lawn. This is a sure thing. Like lust
in the eyes of a smoky stranger
sitting at the end of the bar. These
are eggs under a fat hen mama, warmth
and feather and cluck. It’s you nodding
back at that stranger, your mouth forming
that perfect, silent yes, and the falling
flower of your dress later hitting the floor.
Oh sure, you might tap open a shell
now and then, get a beaky surprise.
Or maybe that stranger was eyeing
a woman standing just past your shoulder.
But for now, let’s calls the odds in your
favor. Line everything up. Eggs and lust
and just start counting. One chicken, two.
You get it. Just do it. I’ll wait.

Picasso’s Weeping Woman

What was it made her cry like that?Artwork by Gene McCormick
Her face broken into here and over
there? She must have started out
egg, same as everyone, unfertilized
and calm until spermshatter
starts us on a life of break and heal
and break and heal.

                                    Last time,
she was put back together, her edges
didn’t match, but then again neither
do ours. We always go back
different. Call it growth, and use
our tears to soften our faces, our eggs
with eyes and ears that see everything,
hear everything, till one day, deathshatter
ends us, and not even the tears of everyone
else can put us back together again.

The Better Way to Go

One minute, an apple is bloating into ripeness,
and the next, it’s waiting for one good wind
to knock it to the ground.  An apple’s life
is short. It goes from seed to plump, to plop,
but that doesn’t stop its need to be. It’s like
those family dinners that no one understands
but can’t give up, where Uncle Hank bumbles
drunk across the couch, where Aunt Lil tucks him
in with the afghan quilt that was never meant
to cover him whole, his long legs dangling
uncovered across the arm rest. He will snore it
off, leaving everyone else to finish dinner,
clinks of glass and plates being scraped,
and when he does wake up, Aunt Lil will insist
he eats something, like she always does, because
this is her answer to everything. And even
though everyone’s finished, thinking about
traffic and train schedules home, she is busy
scanning the table, fizzed-out root beer, leftover
ham and lands finally on the fruit bowl. Banana
smiles and kiwi fists and yes, of course, the apple,
which she picks up, easy prey, nothing to peel.
And if an apple has a last thought, maybe,
it’s this: which is the better way to go, after all,
to shrivel unnoticed, tossed and forgotten? Or have
Uncle Hank’s sour breath, his slurry words
the last thing it ever feels on its skin.


Francine Witte is the author of four poetry chapbooks and two full-length collections, Café Crazy and The Theory of Flesh from Kelsay Books. Her flash fiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologized in the most recent New Micro (W.W. Norton) Her novella-in-flash, The Way of the Wind has just been published by Ad Hoc Fiction, and her full-length collection of flash fiction, Dressed All Wrong for This was recently published by Blue Light Press. She lives in New York City.