Francine Marie Tolf: “Strawberry,” “Snowstorm,” “You Know How It Is”


Heart unbruised

by desire.

You trail no blood or violence,

but are sweet to your core, from which

white rays shine

as if the heart of your heart

were an invisible star.


When I bite into you,

my teeth crunch the seeds

other fruits hide.

You wear them gaily, the way

trusting people

wear love on their sleeves.


Foolish little fruit

with your crown of green,

your summer hat that reminds me

of a hula skirt

and tropical islands,

women armed only with flowers

greeting strange ships.



A man’s black eyes roll over me,

cool basalt across shoulders, thighs,

slide from my knees

back to a newspaper of sickled alphabet

I do not understand.

I turn again to waves of snow

outside my train window:


Opaque world

where secrets, lashed by wind,

howl unheard truths.


I am immaculate,

untranslated in this whiteness.

My eyes darken,

my whole body softens.


Tonight, I swear,

I will bring home to you this desire,

I will not discard it this time

along the tracks of my day.



I will deliberately finger

parted thoughts for you,

melt boundaries,

speak a perilous tongue.


You Know How It Is

You know how it is

when you’re raw with hurt.


You leave your room

and walk into an evening


sure strangers will stare.

But they pass by without looking


and the soft September air

does not scrape as you thought it would.


An elderly man nods on a park bench,

children shout from swings.


The world turns lavender like when you were small,

a full moon rises from rooftops.


The little girl you are watching

flings arms wide to hold it


as she dances for her father.

You see his love for her


when he turns toward you,

you see his kindness and look away,


but keep it inside as you keep

the moon and the child,


all that mystery

trembling at the cusp.




Francine Marie Tolf’s essays and poems have been published in numerous journals. She is the author of four full-length poetry collections, most recently Spill Some New Brightness (Pinyon Press, 2022). She has also published a memoir, an essay collection, and a number of chapbooks. Francine is grateful for all of the poems that have been accepted over the years by GHLL including the three that appear in this issue. She is extremely grateful for the generosity and support of its poetry editor, Joseph Benevento.