Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
  • Home
  • About
  • Archive
  • Bio Notes
  • Bookshelf
  • Contents
  • Submit
882 words
SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

Enter Here by Alexis Rhone Fancher

by Francine Witte

KYSO Flash Press
(May 2017)

Cover of Enter Here, by Alexis Rhone Fancher

If a poetry collection could pout its red lips and run its manicured fingers down a stockinged leg, that would be Enter Here, the latest book by Alexis Rhone Fancher. This is a masterful mashup of sex, noir, and storytelling, all set against a California backdrop and dotted throughout with Rhone Fancher’s gorgeous photography. In fact, it’s through her photographic eye that you experience these poems. Details smartly set up the scene, and as a master of the zoom, Rhone Fancher knows just when to focus in on the exact right moment. And she also knows how to bring out the snoop in her reader. You may, at times, feel as though you’re listening to stories you probably shouldn’t be, watching scenes you ought to turn away from. But with her skilled craftsmanship and compelling characters, you will not want to. The book opens with a conversation we can’t help but want to eavesdrop on. “When I turned fourteen, my mother’s sister took me to lunch and said:”

soon you’ll have breasts. They’ll mushroom
on your smooth chest like land mines.

A boy will show up, a schoolmate, or the gardener’s son.
Pole-cat around you. All brown-eyed persistence.

The girl’s aunt continues, detailing the time-line of this relationship until...

Soon he will deceive you with your younger sister,
the girl who once loved you most in the world.

This is a stunning moment in the poem, revealing the backstory of the aunt’s own experience with betrayal. We have been happily taking in the imagery, the bond between the aunt and her niece, everything going so well, until that moment of pow!, where the speaker reveals a tiny detail that spins the poem around the inside of your brain. Not surprising that this poem was included in the 2016 edition of Best American Poetry. In “Tuesday Nights, Room 28 of the Royal Motel on Little Santa Monica,” we meet John Colton, who has a wife but meets the speaker on a weekly basis, likes to watch her “vamp for him in the steamed-up bathroom,” and holds her “like I matter.” This last detail highlights how Rhone Fancher injects a moment of poignancy into this seemingly hard-boiled account of loveless sex. We zoom in further to this “relationship” as he “brushes the hair from my face,/ plants a kiss on my forehead.” We feel the vulnerability. In one tiny moment, Rhone Fancher has told us the story within the story. Another intriguing character is the “Sad Waitress at the Diner in Barstow” who seems typically detached as you might expect, “beyond the kitchen’s swinging door,/ beyond the order wheel” and the beautifully carved diner experience, then out of nowhere, this bland, forgettable waitress suddenly springs to life:

watch as she eyes those 18-wheelers barreling
down the highways, their mud guards
adorned with chrome silhouettes of naked women
who look nothing like her.

the cruel sun throws her inertia in her face.
this is what regret looks like.

maybe she’s searching for that hot day in August
when she first walked away from you.

Suddenly we have a mystery, a femme fatale, perhaps.

Rhone Fancher’s storytelling takes us to the Mojave Desert in “Regarding the Unreliability of Buses in the Desert in Late July.” Here we meet the cast of a tragic story: a girl who “wouldn’t last the afternoon,” the man who picks her up and tells the police “it was like a dream,” and the girl’s mother who salutes the girl’s faded photograph and says “nothing ages a woman like a dead kid.” A chilling story told through image. Then there is the sad “For Kate in Absentia,” a conversation in which the speaker advises Kate how her husband is moving on after her death.

...His new love lives close by.
He returned from her arms, all sparkly, school-
boy giddy. Not like last year,

when he was walking wounded, watching
his cell-phone video of your forest burial,

The poem continues with how the new love is a married woman. Kate, the deceased woman, whispers to the speaker:

Watch out for my husband....
He’s always been naïve.

Photography and language mix beautifully in “Daylight Savings Won’t Save Us”:

If I pull the drapes it is always night.

I cannot see the seasons,
or you, sneaking off in the half-light
like there’s someplace you’d rather be.

Come Monday, it will grow cold and dark
before people leave work.

Maybe you should go with them?

When I photograph you,
I stash my feelings in my pocket
where you won’t find them,
where the fabric sticks to my


Come Sunday, the saving of daylight
will no longer matter.
If I photograph the light, maybe you
will no longer matter.

I grab my camera and shoot the dawn
from the roof of our building.
Catch you slipping out the lobby.

My world goes dark without you.

The world of Enter Here never goes dark. From start to finish, we have met characters and shared their poignant moments. We’ve leaned in, strained to hear bits of forbidden conversation, looked when we shouldn’t, but it’s never gratuitous, and ultimately, we walk away knowing we’ve been taken on a beautiful, touching, and mysterious journey, one we won’t soon forget.

—Previously published in the South Florida Poetry Journal (May 2017); appears here with author’s permission


SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

Francine Witte’s

full-length poetry collection Café Crazy was published by Kelsay Books in December 2017. She is also the author of the poetry chapbooks Only, Not Only (Finishing Line Press, 2012) and First Rain (Pecan Grove Press, 2009), winner of the Pecan Grove Press competition; and the flash fiction chapbooks Cold June (Ropewalk Press), selected by Robert Olen Butler as the winner of the 2010 Thomas A. Wilhelmus Award, and The Wind Twirls Everything (MuscleHead Press). Her poetry chapbook Not All Fires Burn the Same won the 2016 Slipstream chapbook contest. A former high school teacher, Witte lives in New York City.


[Webmaster’s Note: Learn more about the author in: An Interview with Francine Witte by poet and writer Arya-Francesca Jenkins in her blog WritersnReadersII (20 October 2017).]

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury