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Three poems by JENNIFER FRANK

curated by Susan McAllister of Harwood Art Center and Harwood Review

Susan McAllister has selected these poems in response to the art exhibits by Naomi Shersty and Amy Traylor.



Seven Sisters

Jennifer Frank's bio



It all rests on your shoulders, as they say. Runs
down your spine. It's in your hands now, or the pit
of your stomach. The weight of it all, described
in terms our bodies can relate to, something to move
along appendages and strange branches of synapses.

These ribs bridge the deepest part.
Or so I imagine, if I were driving these lanes,
highways of thighs, and crossing uncharted
arteries. Flashing signals and obscure symbols
direct me to nowhere I recognize.

We all ache and itch and make wrong turns.
I try to find the exit into this body, navigate
the arrangement of great vessels and soft tissue.
Instead, I get lost in the space between innominate
bones, where connections are complicated and

difficult to pronounce. Vertebrae sigh and joints
crack in the night, tell the story of their dislocation.
On the edge of abandoned villages, walls scatter
their stones. I rest along the crest of my ilium, look for
an open station where I can buy a map with a simple
legend, directions to an unnamed place.




My spine's a stone walkway that leads me
to remembered and logical places. Still
I get lost. Ideas branch in too many directions,
distract me with red leaves and the weave
of thin twigs. I hold onto things for too long.
Every mistake an heirloom porcelain vase.


My spine's a ladder rung with bones
that can hold my weight, if I leave a few
chipped habits and sorrows behind. I climb
down into a place of seeds and pale petals.
Roots show me how to take in and pass on,
hold nothing.

Down here is where the story started.
The one I retold incorrectly for so many
years, forgot the details and main characters,
the plot that twisted like an old pebbled path.
I start over, relearn the fiction, how it all began.


Seven Sisters

From their new perch in the sky, the Pleiades follow the lines
below, decipher the scribbles and scars the way we interpret
constellations and other celestial arrangements. They read
the leaves floating in streams, follow the phases of forests.
Decisions are made based on the lifeline in the green palm
of a valley. Connections calm the mind like the steady rhythm
of the all-night train they watch cross the landscape.
The shimmer of mountaintops speckled with snow
indicates a safe passage into daylight.

The Seven Sisters were also nymphs in the train of Artemis.
Their tales are vague and contradictory. Storylines blur as they
traverse the terrain; explanations follow predictions and best
guesses. Whether the sisters were doves or pigeons before they
settled into the evening sky, their dark perch in a cloud described
by astronomers as a train wreck, a cosmic collision.

I am the youngest of seven daughters. Family ties are at times thin
threads, roughly stitched and at risk of coming loose. I once thought
of my sisters and I as birds, not knowing then the connection
to the myth, only sensing the urge for flight. I still don't know
the associations of our travels. Our orbits might, from a great distance,
form the shape of something of substance, a bright cluster that sends
more light than it realizes. The start of some idea that needs
seven points to map its way into the world.


Jennifer Frank has worked on several projects involving poetry and the visual arts. Her most recent was Cross-Pollination, an exhibit at the Hardwood Art Center of her collaboration with artist Becky Holtzman. Her poems have appeared in the GW Review, Phoebe and local anthologies as well as inside the occasional city bus.


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