Poetry Sunday: “Frances of the Cadillac,”
by Laura Van Prooyen


Frances of the Cadillac

Under her tongue, there was a story.
In her mouth, nails. Frances hammered license plates
to the back wall of her garage. There

hang the years that sunk like a foot in loose soil.
That rusted like a hinge. Whose hand or what machine
etched the numbers that cruised along

in the exhaust of a town that no longer exists?
This is what happens when I check my wristwatch.

Frances drives her leather-topped Cadillac
between the electrical signals of my brain. There’s
a railroad crossing, and I don’t understand

the way she’s looking at me. Her body tells me something
happened. Her arms so thin, the veins visible
when she rolls up her sleeves. Still, if I were drowning

I know Frances would save me. She might throw
a string of black pearls. She might offer a broom handle,
worn from her sweeping. She’d pull me to the edge,

push pennies from my lungs. But it’s the bells
of the crossing that make me unable to breathe.


First published in Ploughshares, then in Our House Was on Fire (Ashland Poetry Press 2015), and reprinted here with permission of the press.


Laura Van Prooyen is the author of two collections of poetry, Our House Was on Fire (Ashland Poetry Press 2015), nominated by Philip Levine and winner of the McGovern Prize, and Inkblot and Altar (Pecan Grove Press 2006). Our House Was on Fire is available for order here or from the author here. Van Prooyen’s poems have appeared in Boston ReviewPloughshares, Prairie Schooner, and The Southern Review, among others. She teaches in the low-residency MFA Creative Writing program at Miami University, and she lives in San Antonio, Texas.


Poet’s Note

“Frances of the Cadillac” is one of several Frances poems that are part of a book that deals with memory and is concerned with cyclical time. Frances is an ethereal character who is, however, deeply rooted in place. She loosely stitches together a history of sorts in a nonlinear narrative.

Start the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.