George Franklin practices law in Miami and teaches writing workshops in Florida state prisons. His poems have been most recently published in Sheila-Na-Gig online, Salamander, The Wild Word, B O D Y, Matter, Scalawag, Gulf Stream, Rascal, Amsterdam Quarterly, and Twyckenham Notes. Additional poems are forthcoming in The Threepenny Review, Cagibi, The Wild Word, and armarolla, and a bi-lingual edition of his poems, with Spanish translations by Ximena Gomez, is forthcoming from Katakana Editores.
In Chicago up near Wrigley Field,
My first grandchild is in utero,
In making a timely appearance.
Here, in Miami, my friend who is
Ninety-one years old dies slowly and
Without knowing anymore who is there
And who is not. He hasn’t eaten
Or drunk water for three days. His eyes
Are clouded with a gray film, and he
Doesn’t try to move his arms or legs.
I don’t know how to make sense of
These comings and goings in the world.
On this side, puddles of rainwater,
Conversations, casualness of
Touch, the taste of hot coffee mixed with
Whiskey, a green landscape, fields planted
With tomatoes or strawberries, sun
In the afternoon, or the time I
Saw dolphins jumping in Biscayne Bay.
On the other, the body aware
Only of itself, reclaiming each
Of the senses, turning them inside
Toward pain and uncomfortable sleep.
There is no balance between the ones
Dying and the ones being born, just
A dim, precarious middle, where
We slide one way or another. On
The radio, Dexter Gordon plays
“Willow Weep for Me.” I just listen.
We aspired to better things, my sisters and I,
Sacrificed so much. We cut off toes
So our feet would pass the test. Blood
Smeared on the glass of the slipper.
All the time, though, she was watching,
Bringing rags and water to clean the knife. Her humility
Was a disguise. She was expert at biding her time,
Blushing modestly as she danced with the prince,
Using witchcraft—call it what it is.
She hid the white delicacy of her hands
Under soot from the chimney fire. She claimed
She had no comb to make her hair presentable.
Lies, all of it. The Devil knows what she put
In our food when she’d hover over the pot.
He also knows what secrets he whispered, while
She stared greedily at the bubbling of the
Stew, dancing lumps of meat, turnips,
Whatever else was there. We were not rich.
Our food was simple. She smiled and
Pretended she wasn’t hungry.
We were idiots not to recognize her duplicity.
It was only when the birds pecked out
Our eyes that we could see her.
Rain on the roof doesn’t let up, the noise
Not romantic or soothing. It’s the sound
Of anxious nerves sending messages, neurons
Leaping synapses, Morse code of migraines.
We spoke on the phone a short time ago.
You were worried, your work, family. I
Wasn’t much different. After a while, the
Conversation drifted to poetry, the way it
Always does with us: Li Qingzhao, Yosano
Akiko, Landor’s poem to his son, Carlino.
After a while, we both felt better, even though
The day hadn’t gone as planned, the poems we’d
Hoped for hadn’t arrived, and the time wasted
Would not return. For all that, we felt better.
I wish you were here now to lie down next to me,
To curl together beneath the sheets, the soft blanket,
The roof pounded by rain. I’d like to smell
Your thick hair and feel your lips on my shoulder.
The thunder has moved farther away. The rain
Is slower now and falters. The poems we talked
About, full of desire, regret, smooth bodies, and
Hands suddenly old, poems carved out of jade
And wanting—how strange that they comfort us.
Tomorrow, we’ll probably worry about that as well,
But for now, we’ll both fall asleep, you in your
Apartment, me here listening to the last drops
Splatter on the roof, smelling your hair fresh
From the shower.