at The Phillips Collection
In response to The Phillips Collection exhibition, poet Vievee Francis communes with these pivotal works of art in this once-in-a-lifetime blockbuster exhibition.
This reading will be followed by a moderated conversation where audience members can also ask their own questions.
Given to Rust
Every time I open my mouth my teeth reveal
more than I mean to. I can’t stop tonguing them, my teeth.
Almost giddy to know they’re still there (my mother lost hers)
but I am embarrassed nonetheless that even they aren’t
pretty. Still, I did once like my voice, the way it moved
through the gap in my teeth like birdsong in the morning,
like the slow swirl of a creek at dusk. Just yesterday
a woman closed her eyes as I read aloud, and
said she wanted to sleep in the sound of it, my voice.
I can still sing some. Early cancer didn’t stop the compulsion
to sing but
there’s gravel now. An undercurrent
that also reveals me. Time and disaster. A heavy landslide
down the mountain. When you stopped speaking to me
what you really wanted was for me to stop speaking to you. To
stifle the sound of my voice. I know.
Didn’t want the quicksilver of it in your ear.
What does it mean
to silence another? It means I ruminate on the hit
of rain against the tin roof of childhood, how I could listen
all day until the water rusted its way in. And there I was
putting a pan over here and a pot over there to catch it.
Copyright © 2017 by Vievee Francis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 17, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets. https://poets.org/poem/given-rust
This reading is co-sponsored with The Phillips Collection.
Founded by art collector and philanthropist Duncan Phillips in 1921, The Phillips Collection has been collecting groundbreaking works of modern and contemporary art for one hundred years. Duncan Phillips’s former home—and modern additions to it—in Washington’s historic Dupont Circle neighborhood provides a unique setting for the collection’s nearly 6,000 works. Following Phillips’s unconventional approach to exhibitions, The Phillips Collection galleries are frequently rearranged to facilitate new conversations between artworks and fresh experiences for visitors.
The O.B. Hardison Poetry Series is pleased to partner with East City Bookshop, an independently run, women owned bookstore on Capitol Hill. Pickup is available at the shop, or they ship (almost) anywhere! Check their website, eastcitybookshop.com.