George Franklin is the author of Noise of the World (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions), Traveling for No Good Reason (winner of the Sheila-Na-Gig Editions competition in 2018), a dual-language collection, Among the Ruins / Entre las ruinas (Katakana Editores), and a chapbook, Travels of the Angel of Sorrow (Blue Cedar Press). He practices law in Miami and is the co-translator, along with the author, of Ximena Gómez’s Último día/Last Day (Katakana Editores). Buy George’s books here!
When I first moved here, I regretted
The loss of my garden, my fruit trees,
Loquats, mangos, longans and lychees,
Avocados and a Brazilian
Tree whose name I forget. The yard was
Barely big enough to hold them all.
Here, the side yard is shaded by huge
Black olive trees. There is little light, and
Despite their name, black olives do not
Give fruit. There’s no room for planting trees
Of any kind. In the afternoons
Though, I look out the sliding-glass doors
And see thin trunks of umbrella trees
Forcing their way up through the paving
Stones of the patio. Invasive,
And destructive, they remind me how
Easily this small yard next to the
Sand trap and ninth hole of a golf course
Could go back to the kind of swamp they
Call a hammock, how the monstera
Vines could squeeze tendrils under the roof
And the house return to rotting wood
And dirt. The opossums and raccoons
Would start prowling in daylight. You and
I would have to move elsewhere, maybe
A small apartment downtown, and I’d
Remember that bench by the back fence
And regret losing those black olives.
Built on the edge of lakes and rivers,
Remote cities, brown wooden buildings,
Narrow underground passages that
Crawl one cellar to another but
Never emerge beneath the white sky.
Their labyrinths have no Theseus,
And you have no ball of thread or sword.
The monster that was waiting for you
Gave up a long time ago. He’s gone
To a cave in the mountains, washes
Down whole sheep with rainwater, picks his
Teeth with something you don’t want to see.
You’ll never get the chance to say your
Name is No Man, to hear prophecies,
Negotiate with gods and witches.
The wind changed direction, and somehow
You missed each other. There’s a sign that
Reads, “The stationmaster will be back
After lunch.” Someone is giving birth
Behind the sofa. Cracked bones are strewn
Across a beach, cigarette filters
With lipstick, turtle shells carved into
Ashtrays, smells of rotting fish, seaweed.
On a cold train platform, a shopping
Bag spills open, dust burns your eyelids,
And someone you almost recognize
Falls onto the tracks—a saxophone
Plays ballads no one can hear but you.
Give thanks to the veiled inhabitants
Of these cities, generous with their
Salt and black bread, their bowls of water
That reflect your face. Let them draw close.
Give them that Greek coin in your pocket.
“Is it all the blood on the earth
Makes the shadow that color?”
–– Kenneth Rexroth, “Blood on a Dead World”
Somewhere there is always a war.
Somewhere people are always dying of a disease
That could have been prevented or cured.
Somewhere the stars are shining oblivious
To whatever is happening here. Somewhere
Someone in a factory is cleaning out a vat of something
That requires protective gear that was never issued.
Somewhere someone always needs the work.
Tonight, there’s a full lunar eclipse. It can be seen
From lots of places, and the parking lot outside
Is one of them. Somewhere the moon that turns
The color of drying blood reminds someone of a poem,
Just as it reminded me. Somewhere troops look though
Night goggles, watch the sky for drones or fighters.
By now the stars are a cruel joke. When the cities
Go black, stars shine even brighter than before.
If they were flashing messages, if they knew
Or cared, it would only be to tell us we don’t matter.
If the universe has a center, it’s not us. Light careens
Through the void without sentiment or purpose.
There was a poet whose four-year-old daughter asked if
The eclipsed moon was reflecting all the blood on earth.
But the earth just moves like one of those mechanical clocks
From the Middle Ages, clicking into place between the sun and
An orbiting ball of rock where nothing lives or grows.
Somewhere there is always a war, disputed territory,
Refugees in blankets, pink knitted hats, a plastic bottle with water.
Somewhere someone is always digging a grave or building
A funeral pyre out of furniture and broken boards.
Somewhere the earth’s shadow crosses the moon.