Francesca DeMusz


i’ve been trying to make friends with the reaper
it’s a friend of a friend
or i know it through friends

someone has a book
or a pin
or a drink the reaper likes
or a song
i read the book, wear the pin
drink the drink and cover the song
with three black candles burning
round a chicken heart i stole from the walk-in at work
i don’t really know what i’m doing

at catland i find a book of
necromantic rituals by leilah wendell
published in new orleans in ‘91
it gives me chills just to read it
i love it
i table it
i read it at night smoking mugwort
i breathe so slow the reaper might think
i’m dying and tell me to cut it out in a dream, but it doesn’t come
it knows what death looks like
but maybe it would think i was cute for trying

the book advises me to sleep with the dead in a dark mausoleum
to prepare to meet death
to work myself up to it i steal another chicken heart

somewhere, in many places, right now
someone is wailing out into the dark
next to their dead
and i am sitting with a chicken heart
feeling responsible and fucked

i ask for photos of death doing stuff
i want to see death doing anything other than reaping
it’s stupid
i get a photo of death on the boardwalk riding the bumper cars
a photo of death surfing, eating a burger
a photo of death skateboarding through a graveyard
death’s not like this
young cute and popular in the californian sense
death doesn’t do any of these things
death reaps
that’s it

has there been a day no one died?

did we all sleep? is it so hard
for me to imagine a whole world healthy
non-violent to the point of peace
and alive

yeah, it is. it’s hard for me to imagine
no one would have to die to make way for the birth of such a future
and why even
a day when no one dies
some deaths are prayed for
some deaths are peace
i’d rather have a day when no one works

death, ferrying souls all day
like little bowls of soup
and plates of chicken and rice
from the kitchen to human mouths
riding its bike around
calling names and numbers and buzzing apartments

i guess like any other laborer
the reaper could do this with great compassion
or apathetic indifference
or spite and malice

how many times a day can i tell a perfect stranger how i’m doing
i don’t want to make small talk just get paid
alternately blessing and cursing glasses of ice water
white, dark, or mixed meat?
the curses i can get away with are
no eye contact
curt repetition of order
paying more attention to another customer
sly evil eye… sometimes

a blessing
is to disguise the class war going on around us
most often because we’re comrades
my eyes get soft
i’ll show my teeth
and maybe laugh

but make no mistake
im still at work


the book of necromantic rituals says i have to come to the reaper with love

through all these global motions i have to remember what a lover i am
it’s easy to hate, always the easiest thing
to hate and to pain war and violence and totalitarianism fascism and fear
fascism is so easy because it’s so fucking dumb
i mean look at the fascists
they are so fucking dumb
they’re dumb because they’re full of hate and hate to think
they repress thought because they’re afraid of how fucking dumb they are
i mean, i’m not a genius but i’m a lover and it makes me smart as fuck
love is so vulnerable and out there it’s a sharp edged world full of fuckers
i wanna cut up into bits with my own hate but
i have to come to the reaper with love

and if i cut them up it must somehow be with love

i want to love
be brave in my love
believe in my love and in love and in a revolution of love
a revolution of radical love transforms your whole being
screaming down the street like
my whole being is on fire with the power of love uaaaaahhhhhh!
full moon in leo on a friday and i want to love
a bath spread over seven days as the moon wanes to love
to love to be brave in my love
i lay in the bath and love

what did i listen to to love?
what did i think about to love?
disco, moss and ecological succession

lichen algae fungi wind and water over rock
rock like concrete
on my walk to work i see the concrete
covered with lichen and love this little lichen revolution
before grass roots even it’s the lichen
i imagine this hard shell bullshit cast upon the earth
that keeps the rain from getting in and overflows the sewers
all the concrete brick cinderblock and asphalt
covered in lichen
lichen means a new ecosystem is coming
lichen is the foundation for a new earth
lichen is death to barren human wastelands

i lay in the bath and i love lichen
i want to be lichen and laugh at myself

thinking about beginnings
on my way to brave love
i want to love everything i see
it’s hard but hate is easy and boring and a bummer
i try to love the concrete and graffiti helps
i think about millions of years passing and some future group of beings
digging past the soil levels
down to where the lichen has just now today started to grow and finding
some big piece of concrete with you go girl’s slime drip nose or
ghadse’s Police State USA or Books Love the Kids
and i love concrete even
and i love us
so many days i wake up thinking fuck humans but right now i love us
my entire being is hot for you revolutionary cretins
i love us partying as resistance when we dance around in a frenzy
like a bacterial strain of radical love
i love us showing our teeth and making eyes and loving one another
and shouting in the streets
i love us angry all together like molecules
water of a protest march
solid mass of picket signs
air, air of swift movement towards the possible better world
towards the next hill and the next and the next
we have been doing this for generations and i love us for that
we do this because we love each other and refuse to hate even when it’s in fashion
and i get pretty bummed and tired of fighting this like
how many times must we defeat the ever changing face of hate
but shit i fucking love you all and i love fighting with you and it’s the only thing that doesn’t make me feel useless and hopeless and truly fucked so thanks and


all this death
i’m thinking about the word
how maybe mine could be pink marble

how i want it to be just like a bedroom
what’s death anyway to the dead or to dead me
what’s death to dead me, to living me thinking about
being dead, what’s death
but being in my bedroom
“untraceable interval”
i love those

maybe i can die like
looking the way frida kahlo looked
carried to her first solo exhibition in mexico
laying in bed

what i mean is i hope i die surrounded by friends
but alone in my dying, too
maybe i can’t see them, maybe they’re not there but they are
i don’t want us all to die at the same time
there’s work to be done somebody has to stick around and do it
if not you then me
here, a promise
if you die i’ll say your name every day
if you die i’ll keep your work alive
and when i don’t feel like fighting i’ll fight for you
i’ll be the fight you would have fought
with heart

on inauguration day
i watched alicia garza and angela davis
talk across generations on democracy now
and angela davis says
“i’m so happy that i survived and am able to witness the emergence of this new movement
and i see myself as witnessing it on behalf of all of those who didn’t make it this far
who are no longer with us.”

lately i’m obsessed with the idea of a two way mirror
i feel like so much of this existence is like a two way mirror
glass between us, glass
the veil between us, little hints of “us”
the cohesive, the collective living and dead
i can kinda see you
in the dark

i hope at least
for a second being dead is like being in
my room
listening to the cocteau twins
making noise in someone else’s t-shirt

i hope being dead is like
the time before birth and then i am born to another place
any kind of place, any kind of being

i hope i get to
walk around in my lil pink sepulcher
and lay on the floor
and over the tiny coffin, pink
just lay there for a second
dead, writing you a poem maybe
listening for mourners, still a lil narcissist
day dreaming in my lil dead room
alone, not being looked at or crafting an outward image
navigating conversations
you know what i mean

cut the fear from my troubled heart
death the womb
death the fire
death the wink

Francesca DeMusz

Francesca DeMusz is a working artist who has recently relocated from New York City to Portland, Oregon. Her work can be found in All Stars, on the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Blog, Lit Hub, The Poetry Project Newsletter and in various chapbooks and zines.