Aerik Francis :: “An Anti-Pastoral” and “Grandma Dolores Waters the Monstera”

An Anti-Pastoral

It’s not the right word—wilderness. 
Living in this dream I find little sleep.
Instead I find myself taken

by the sight of shitting sheep 
that cough & simultaneously excrete
blackish-brown blueberries
& piss a sour amber puddle.

Here I am simultaneously
medicinal & poisonous—
I make a move & artificial

light obscures the touch 
of starlight. Where is the Sun

whose rays feed the greenery,
heat the humidity, but whose 
face turns away from me,

whose countenance, when 
encountered, was neither 
yellow nor red but white?

I want to say I admire the birdsongs
but they deny me rest. Ducklings that flinch 
at my gestures to quench their thirst.

I feed & pet a dog, neglect the bark.
A spider swings until smashed
between a pillow & my head.

Mosquitos halo me in the umbra
of branches & leaves hanging overhead.
I wax bucolic to the trees & my buccal void
fills with insects. I am bitten & so I retreat.

I’m afraid of everything here: the concept
of property, the potential claims of trespassing
by the neighboring settlers. Three white boys,

shirtless, approach on bikes & interrupt,
asking if I live here, where the owner is,
if I know ash, if any of us are cops. 

Crops. In this pasture I assume a posture
as if confronted by hungering animals. 
I am praying they see me as merely docile.

How pathetic. Every day roosters escape
their cage & I’m only concerned about blame.
I don’t walk on the asphalt due to fear of bullets.

I stay in my lane, the one I am resigned to.
Forty-five acres & no mule, none of it
mine, none of it untouched by human
hands by now. I both desire & don’t want

all of the knowledge of horrible histories,
the blood that the roots have felt & drank.
I sense something I can only call temporary,

something simultaneously gouged & gorgeous.
My presence here the duration of half a cycle
of the moon I can’t find. I am making change
& thus am also changed—but for what?


Grandma Dolores Waters the Monstera

I never forget the date of my dad’s passing,
though I constantly misremember Earth Day 
as 4/20 as the anniversary of Columbine.
I don’t know what any holiday even means 
anymore in the context of the USAmerican 
anthropocene. I’ve survived in the context 
of existing amidst our own complex ecosystems: home.
Here, as the morning news buzzes more misfortune,
we still notice new life everyday; today, sprouts 
on the monstera, condolences from neighbors
after my dad died. My grandma believes flowers
will bloom from the green. Today I witness 
what was always: my ever-resourceful grandma reusing 
a plastic water bottle & refilling it up to the brim, 
then shuffling across the kitchen to the thirsty plant 
& pouring water into the soil to drink. Grandma smiles 
& laughs when others do first so I become more animated 
when I’m around her. Her face relaxes & her voice sings.
Sometimes she stares off & I wonder, too. Who is she 
remembering? So much is difficult to recall– 
What day is it today? Who cares? Her memory 
nevertheless holds my birthday & infant face.
Today she called me to tell me that my dad was here
& that he changed the television channel on her. 
I see on her screen basketball playoffs recording;
Denver is winning & the city will soon erupt
in violent pride, how we celebrate any holiday here. 
Old friends are texting how happy my dad would have been 
to see his team win. My grandma says he was watching.
She once told me that the dead are always talking
so the question is: are you listening? & if you are
listening to the dead, you can hear all the living.
Here’s your dad, she says today. A fly lands on a leaf.


Aerik Francis is a Queer Black & Latinx poet and teaching artist based in Denver, Colorado, USA. Aerik is the author of the poetry chapbooks BODYELECTRONIC (Trouble Department 2022) and MISEDUCATION (NDR 2023). They have poetry published widely, links of which may be found at their website Find them on social media @phaentompoet.