Sheila-Na-Gig online

Poetry

George Franklin

George Franklin is the author of Traveling for No Good Reason (winner of the Sheila-Na-Gig Editions manuscript competition in 2018), a bilingual collection, Among the Ruins / Entre las ruinas (Katakana Editores), and a broadside, “Shreveport” (Broadsided Press). He is also the winner of the 2020 Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Prize. He practices law in Miami, teaches poetry workshops in Florida state prisons and is the co-translator, along with the author, of Ximena Gómez’s Último día/Last Day (Katakana Editores). His chapbook, Travels of the Angel of Sorrow, is forthcoming from Blue Cedar Press, and a new full-length collection, Noise of the World, is forthcoming from Sheila-Na-Gig Editions. Traveling for No Good Reason is available at: https://sheilanagigblog.com/sheila-na-gig-editions-quick-shopping/george-franklin/

Scritch-Scratch

Dogs don’t use words.  They look up or
Scratch at the door to go out, make
Whining noises or bark.  But words
Aren’t dogs, like dogs aren’t avocados,
Cracks in the pavement, or lines
For hopscotch.

The first world was
Without words.  Just pushing from inside,
Empty stomach, dry tongue, sex—the rain
Soaking everything, hoof-prints, deer droppings
By a green bush, unripe berries.  In the second
World, words were scritch-scratch for apples
And meat, for tigers and waterholes, for
Rivers and fire, the thing that wasn’t
In front of you, thing wanted, thing that
Shouldn’t be forgotten.  Then, the time
When words made up their own world,
When there were words for other
Words, a whole world that couldn’t be seen,
Everything invisible, everything possible,
Not just tiger, but the god of tigers, the
Moon who mated with the ocean and
The sun who died beneath the waves and
Was always reborn.  Everything turned
Scritch-scratch.  The baby’s first word, the
Words of the dying.

Left behind in
The world of things were apples and dirt,
Cows and sidewalks, tree limbs stretching
Above the avenues, musicians playing for
Coins from passersby.  Words claimed
The limits of the world, and what was
Beyond was only the white border of
A map, empty of everything but fingerprints.

In the beginning, they said, were words,
Existing before things, before rain, sunlight,
Before creatures crawled out of the sea, before
First roots and grass-blades, first stars
Rising and setting.  In the beginning, they
Said, was scritch-scratch, because the world
That’s not here doesn’t die and isn’t born.  And
The dirt and the apples, the dogs and avocados,
Even the waterfalls, sharp rocks, were just
Accidents, shadows in a cave at night,
Firelight or flashlight making scritch-
Scratch on the walls.  Rivers were no longer
Wet, fish no longer slippery.  Rivers were
Lines on a map made from words—the
Ocean waves: instances; the starlight: energy.
People wore shoes so as not to feel the earth.

Only the stubborn refused the salvation of
Words—exiled from the city of
Ideas, of God, they praised the world they
Saw, tasted, and did so blasphemously,
In words.  They praised the cold stink of
Corpses, the clean smell of rain in summer,
The uselessness of love, all things forgotten,
The pain the bricks feel under the weight
Of mortar and wood, of other bricks, memories
Of wet clay and air.  They praised their
Bodies, which were nothing like the idea
Of bodies, strong and perfect.  They praised
The paunch of their stomachs and the weakness
Of their legs and shoulders, and they praised
The bodies they loved, changing as they changed,
Which unlike words would not last forever,
Preferred the fragile texture of living skin to
Scritch-scratch on stone.  They were stubborn,
And the words loved them for their stubbornness.

Preparations

Bags of the good red onions are hard to find
When shelves are empty before a hurricane.
The bread’s run out, and only meat is left,
Defrosting quickly now the power’s off.

When shelves are empty before a hurricane,
You take whatever others left behind.
Defrosting quickly now the power’s off,
A naked chicken drips into a pan.

You take whatever others left behind—
This is what comes from having ignored the signs.
A naked chicken drips into a pan.
You’re lucky to have charcoal and a grill.

This is what comes from having ignored the signs,
The shifting path, the warning to put up shutters.
You’re lucky to have charcoal and a grill.
Outside, the winds begin to shake the trees.

The shifting path, the warning to put up shutters,
Reports from planes that flew into the eye—
Outside, the winds begin to shake the trees,
And coconuts fly loose across the lawn.

Reports from planes that flew into the eye
Confirm the course, the thickness of the wall,
While coconuts fly loose across the lawn.
Hurricanes wobble as they near dry land.

Confirm the course, the thickness of the wall,
And pull a mattress up above your head.
Hurricanes wobble as they near dry land,
But not enough to turn back out to sea.

You squeeze your extra batteries in the dark,
Say, “something, something, onions were hard to find.”
No one can hear you over the sound of wind.
“The bread ran out, only meat was left.”

Palm Fronds

For Ximena Gómez

You say palm fronds at night remind you
Of Colombia, of the house where
You grew up by the Rio Cali,

The shaded sidewalk between that street
And river, the school next door, the zoo
Around the corner, the steep hill and

Steps leading to your dinner, the noise
Of cars with bad exhausts, evening and
Someone’s old record player, notes of

Salsa heard from down the block.  You say
There’s something “ineffable” at night.
We could be walking in Seville or

Barcelona, to a reading at
Juan Pablo Roa’s bookstore or out
For dinner to a restaurant on

La Rambla.  There’re so many places
We’ve never seen, towns in Umbria
Or Provence, a harbor with sun-bleached

Houses in the Aegean.  Why are
We hungry for these places, talking
About them as we walk—hands touching—

Along a suburban canal in
Miami, powerlines stretching black
Across the moonlight above our heads?

Did the moon shine like this in Cali
Years ago, as you walked thinking of
Madrid, of Paris, the Alhambra?

We’ll get there, mi amor, I promise.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: