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!
Once I had the effrontery to tell my grandfather
That the ketchup bottle on the dining-room table
Was mine, and he got up out of his seat and slapped
Me hard. I was seven years old, and he was going
Senile—but I didn’t know that. Neither did my friend
David, who was over for dinner and maybe more scared
Than I was. I remember staring at my mother, waiting
For her to say something, to tell her father we were
Leaving or even that she had bought that ketchup
At the supermarket because I’d asked for it,
But she just sat there, paralyzed by some mixture
Of emotions she never explained. I ran into the living room
While my grandfather finished dinner. That night,
There was roast beef and potatoes on my grandfather’s
Table and big pitchers of iced tea with mint. His starched
Shirt was spotless, and he was wearing a Chinese silk tie.
He looked the same as always, and the silverware
And porcelain were the same as well. The overhead fan
Never stopped spinning. When he died a year later,
I admit I felt nothing.
Sky like the ocean, cyan going
To blue. I walk without looking up.
The sun must have followed the pavement
Past shopwindows stocked with machines of
All sizes and design: the ancient
Singer that belonged to my mother.
Powered by pedals—it stood on an
Iron frame. My father’s Pontiac:
Through the window, his sunglasses on
The dashboard—there’s a price tag hung from
The doorhandle. Next, a lunch counter
With revolving stools and on each a
Dead relative, Cousin Mary and
Her husband who sold stationery—
Another who was allergic to
Clams, collapsed on the neatly mopped floor.
A bank opens onto dense forest,
Behind the teller’s cages, pine trees
And feral cats rubbing against the
Bark, resin sticking to their fur, claws
Scraping against the wood. I head to
The bus station, knowing there’s plenty
Of time. The river is so shallow
You could walk across on the sandbars.
Neon tubes flicker before sunset.
On the movie theater’s marquee,
Too many black letters have been lost.
No one will ever know what they said.