George Franklin practices law in Miami and teaches writing workshops in Florida state prisons. His poems have appeared in Salamander, The Wild Word, B O D Y, Matter, Scalawag, Gulf Stream, Rascal, Amsterdam Quarterly, Twyckenham Notes, The Threepenny Review, Cagibi, armarolla, and elsewhere. A bi-lingual edition of his poems, with Spanish translations by Ximena Gomez, was recently published by Katakana Editores. Traveling for No Good Reason was the winner of Sheila-Na-Gig Editions 2018 Full-length Manuscript Contest: https://sheilanagigblog.com/sheila-na-gig-editions/
I’m always afraid I’ll turn around to find you gone,
Eurydice in a flowered dress, oversized bag on your shoulder,
Fading back into the lobby of your building, elevator retreating
Up to the tenth floor—you swallowed by the hallway
And the door, as afternoon light fades over the railroad tracks,
The graffitied buildings to the west. But, I’m not Orpheus,
And you’re very much alive. In Colombia, the day after
Your father’s funeral, we walked between the tables of a market,
Where you warned me in a serious voice to bury my cell phone
Deep in my front pocket to fend off thieves. But there weren’t
Any thieves—Or at least we didn’t see them—just piles of
Ripe berries, plantains, and yellow granadilla opening
To sweet gray flesh and black seeds. How long were we there,
Sampling mangos, staring at straw baskets, meat hanging
From iron hooks? Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds
And for eternity sits by Hades’ side for half the year.
She was the one who begged her husband to let Eurydice leave,
Orpheus’s song still echoing from those walls where the dead,
Having drunk from Lethe, forget the bright world and sleep.
When we emerged, your bag heavy with fruit, the sun was still
At the sky’s center, the season unchanged, the traffic thick
With taxis and trucks, with motorcycles and those jeeps that
Carry passengers to the places taxis won’t go. There were televisions
In shop windows, cars for sale on credit, billboards with bottles
Of tequila and aguardiente. Later, in our hotel room, we showered
Off the sweat and held each other. If I were Orpheus,
I would have looked back even sooner. In Miami,
I take your hand as we walk at night along Biscayne, clouds
Reflecting the city’s light as they move east, out over the bay.
Only by touching do we know we’re still here.
I just made the bed with clean sheets. They’re
Wrinkled but washed and fresh smelling, the
Weave a little rough against my hands.
When you get here, I’ll fix coffee, yours
With steamed milk, foamy, mine dark,
Tasting of burnt sugar, reminding
Me of the night sky in another
Latitude, that neighborhood where we,
Walked, the moon still not up over the
Hills, the low rooftops, hotel signs, and
Shuttered windows, from somewhere voices,
Music, a dog barking behind a
High white wall, my lips touching your neck.
After dinner, we’ll turn back the sheets,
Slip in beside each other, our days
Still with us, scents we can’t get rid of,
Sandalwood clinging to your nightgown,
Lemon peel, onions on my fingers.
When we touch, we could be anywhere.
Notre-Dame De Paris
April 15, 2019
On the screen, images of Notre Dame
Burning, the spire falling slowly into the nave—
Water from firehoses unable to reach high
Enough to save it. Tonight, it’s still smoking,
A black ruin in the center of Paris. I was
Eighteen when I first saw it. It was night,
And I’d just arrived. I was staying in a
Room with big windows on the Left Bank,
And I went for a long walk along the Seine,
Looking up at gargoyles in the dark,
Staring at gray stone, carved blocks that
Might as well have been time itself, heavy,
Immobile—our lives passing in front of
Them unnoticed, the way our parents’
Lives passed, our DNA strings
A cliché compared to blocks of stone and
Arches. I don’t know whether I believed in God—
I wavered then—but I believed in time.
I had grown up with old oak trees, too large
To embrace, with pecan and pine older
Than the houses in my neighborhood.
They seemed indestructible, though I knew
They weren’t. These stone walls and parapets
Were older than the trees I remembered, and
The Seine that night was the same color
As the sky, darker than black. If you’d
Told me it was polished by giant hands, I
Might have believed you. The stars seemed
To break apart against the surface. Now,
The cathedral is darker than the water that
Surrounds it. Blackness of burnt wood and
Scarred stone, of wet soot and ash. It should be
Daylight soon on the Île de la Cité.
People walking to work will detour to look
From upstream or down, not quite believing
What they see.