Three poems by Camille Francois

Photo by Mediocre Studio on Unsplash

 
 
 

    She puts away childish things

 

Early mornings – I would turn no light on,
open no curtain, and force
whatever little light the letters held
to my eyes. I loved this most –
reading against the dark.

So really, it should be no surprise
to hear a friend explain
as I reel in the dark –
you’ve neither of you done any wrong.
He couldn’t love very much, that’s all.

 
 
 

    Trinity

 

Lured in by dilution,
you trap yourself in a better man’s skin

and look at me through his devotion.
You ask kind, careful questions,

your attention almost like love;
my remoteness draws you, yet we both know

it is the priest you love, or
for lack of more, his desire now.

I know you can’t give much
of this shadow worship, yet still I feel

that being loved by two through you
makes up for what you lack.

All day I watch you lift the shells
of eggs you broke before and pore to find

where not to step, the only map you have.
One night I wake to hear you writhe in borrowed skin,

your eyelids flicker a silent prayer
for your release. Then morning comes –

the inmate glow gone from your eyes, skin taut
round the sockets, all signs of tenants gone.

You stayed too long, and loved for you.
Pilgrim, we’ll always have the dark in me.

 
 
 

    Tough

 

All we do as kids is trace the hot castle wall
to the top of the hill, eat from the sloe
and dream of water. Or use our bodies as points
on a narrowing circle, the centre of which
is a boar our fathers will shoot as the sun drops
through the leaf cover like raw yolks
through our mothers’ fingers. Here,
girls don’t cry. Nor do we save ourselves
for ‘the one’. We know he won’t come. And sex-
lessness is something we shed with our plaits
as batteries slow-leak in the CD players
under our pillows. Now, people think me odd
for putting my mouth to running water
at my city teaching job. I can’t tell them I do it
because though many tiny lightbulbs blow,
like the loss of my parents’ home, or my sister’s complicated
love, I still can’t feel tired, or put on weight,
or thin out; that the more I run, the more I accumulate
energy and my shoulder shapes itself from sheer
will. So I put my mouth to running water,
and I think I hear something inside, flowing. That when I find it
it will be like pulling chimes from the sea
or a beautiful glass fish shattering; that I will find
one morning, a mark on my pillow like ooze
from a ripe mango. That when I close the tap
and walk to class I think of you
saying, as you moved my hips fondly
when you no longer loved, how delicate
my body was, delicateand the opposite of that

 
 

Camille Francois

About Camille Francois

Camille Francois holds a PhD in contemporary British literature and has taught literature, theory, and translation at Cambridge and several French universities. She now lives near Paris with her daughters and teaches English literature at an international secondary school. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The North, Anthropocene, and The Frogmore Papers.