Sheila-Na-Gig online


Spring Poetry Contest Finalists’ Judge: George Franklin


George Franklin is the author of two poetry collections: Traveling for No Good Reason (winner of the Sheila-Na-Gig Editions competition in 2018) and a bilingual collection, Among the Ruins / Entre las ruinas (Katakana Editores), as well as a broadside, ‘Shreveport,’ published by Broadsided Press. Individual publications include: Sheila-Na-Gig Online, Into the Void, The Threepenny Review, Salamander, Pedestal Magazine, Cagibi, and The American Journal of Poetry. He practices law in Miami, teaches poetry workshops in Florida state prisons, and most recently is the co-translator, along with the author, of Ximena Gómez’s Último día/Last Day (Katakana Editores).


The café is closing soon, and I’ve
Been reading about desire, which seems
Useless. Grammar has nothing to do

With what pushes inchoate from the
Inside. We pretend to be circus
Performers, juggling strings of words like

Bright bowling pins, spinning awkwardly
Back to our hands. I write, I want you,
Without any idea what that

Means, like saying we give ourselves to
Each other, allowing desire to
Run down our thighs like warm water, or

Pressing my lips and teeth hard against
Your shoulder, dissolving beneath your
Fingers, tongue, the shiver in your

Abdomen? No part of speech fits then.
How embarrassing if the people
At the next table, the family

Finishing their sandwiches and drinks,
Knew what I’m thinking, waiting for you,
My head turned toward the evening traffic.


A message from Colombia last night—your
Father had been moved to the hospital again,
For pneumonia this time, his lungs thick

With phlegm, his skin almost transparent.
When we visited a few weeks past, he
Could still talk a little, huddled beneath

Blankets and sheets. It was summer there,
And he was always thirsty. I kept wondering
When it would be too much for you—you knew

He was dying, his legs as thin as your wrists,
Face gaunt. I remembered how my own father
Looked at the end, how his skull seemed to

Be poking up through his face, how his eyes
Seemed larger than before. There wasn’t much
You could do for him, just as there was nothing

I’d been able to do for my father, except to
Bring him home, let him die without doctors
And monitors, without the machinery that

Pretends death won’t happen, until it does.
I’m sorry we can’t do that for your father as well,
Take him back to the house where you grew up—

Gone now, windows boarded, yard unkept—
Take him back there to a room where he could
Look out at mountains, cresting green and steep,

To the west, the north. Somewhere out there, a river
Slides south toward Ecuador and the Andes, and
If it’s morning, the sun will be rising over trees

And livestock—those horses we saw grazing in
Fields alongside the cattle. Downstairs, the daily
Sounds of someone fixing breakfast, of plates and

Silverware, and the smell of hot milk and coffee,
Of eggs and freshly baked rolls. But, we can’t
Do that now. The best we can hope for him is sleep,

A few breaths, dry and open, a nurse touching his
Hand. Memory itself may already have gone dark,
Turned off its shop signs, pulled down the gates.

When we spoke, you mentioned “The Death of
Ivan Ilych,” and I thought about how much he
Wanted to understand and about what couldn’t

Be understood. It seems to me that a man’s death
Is not his own. It doesn’t belong to him. It’s
Not his to understand. It belongs to ones who

Love him and the people who love them. It
Stretches like a wool blanket over cold thin legs or
A night sky, remote, over the mountains.


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