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George Franklin

George Franklin is the author of a new full-length collection, 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 Noise of the World


In The Bad Old Days

In the bad old days, Russian poets
Memorized each other’s manuscripts
So there’d be nothing to confiscate
Or burn. In Truffaut’s film, Fahrenheit
451, the camera, more
Elegant than Bradbury’s prose, tracks
His Book People crisscrossing on
Forest paths, reciting to themselves,
Repeating the books they’d become and
Would pass on. I regret I know so
Few poems by heart—some Donne and Blake,
Browning, Edward Lear, Auden and Frost—
Mostly poems Brodsky required us
To write from memory, sitting around
That cluttered seminar table in
An overheated room. I recall
Shivering on the Amtrak platform
In a wet wind, drilling “Afterwards”
Into my brain, one line at a time,
Listening to Hardy speculate
About his own death, stepping back to
Let the express train go by. Poems
Give shape to memory, then become
Memories themselves, preserved in gray
Tissue, neurons joining synapses,
Express trains headed north along the
Hudson River, Hardy’s pattern of
Anapests and iambs repeated
On my dull American tongue—the
Camera pans to Julie Christie
And Oskar Werner as they, without
Realizing, pass each other in
The woods, remembering, reciting.

Writing About Your Country

For Ximena Gómez

In the next room, you are writing about your country,
About a man who wouldn’t leave his farm and was killed
By paramilitaries, about hillsides thick with trees,
Green moss covering a stone, a boulder. It makes me
Think of our friend Federico, who practices medicine
In a small town in the Andes. I hunted for it on the map,
And it was hard to find. The pictures on Google showed
A white church and narrow streets, nearby mountains,
Clouds that seemed close. In the next room,
You are close also, closer than clouds hovering
Above a valley or the sound of motorcycles fading
Into something that’s almost silence. I can hear a piano,
Passages of Chopin, a disc you’re playing on an old
Laptop as you work, a few dates and almonds in a bowl
Within reach, as close as the asylum narratives you
Translated, refugees who applied for visas during
The bad years, years that haven’t stopped, applicants
Threatened by gangs, by paramilitaries, guerillas—so many
Stories you had to find words for in cold, precise English,
Voices you transposed from Colombia or Venezuela,
Reminding you of relatives in Cali or when you
Taught workshops in Buenaventura, voices to cut
Through the dull gaze of immigration officials,
Their eagerness to finish work, to go play golf or tennis
On the weekend. In the next room, I can hear you
Whispering lines of a poem, the same way I do,
The same way we all do when we write, listening
To ourselves, to our own voices, trying to decipher
The words that will break through our own dull gaze.
In the next room, you are writing about your country,
Which is both far away and close to you. From where
I’m sitting, I can hear you whisper.


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