George Franklin

Ghazal

You can make a poem out of air, she said.
I disagreed.  Poems require dirt and spit, I said.

It was a holiday afternoon, and the stores were closed.
All the buses were on night schedule, the paper said.

There was a café open with plastic chairs, a radio playing euro-pop.
Footballers were waiting to get their palms read, the waitress said.

It was a holiday afternoon when it began to rain.
Poems dripped from the ceiling into buckets that said

“In case of the fire”—splattering in time to the music.
They fall from either handkerchiefs or anthologies, she said.

I disagreed: “Go look in the buckets, and you’ll see.”
They want to know their future, the waitress said.


After Reading Hafiz

In Persia you’d have come to me in sleep.
Asleep I’d be awake, awake asleep.

I’d fall into your darkness like a well,
Bottomless, till I heard the splash of sleep.

I’d be a bright coin tossed for good fortune
Into the dusk mirrors of your eyes.  Sleep

Would feed us with dark almonds and scented pears.
I’d kiss the shadows of your breasts in sleep.

But here, a streetlamp intersects our bed.    
You do not stir from dreamless, silent sleep.

I wander in a parking lot of dreams,
Uncertain where the exit is for sleep.

From somewhere near, a restless ringing phone
Reminds me how I shiver caught in sleep.

You wake and ask me, “Hey, are you asleep?”
If only you would come to me in sleep.


Bougainvillea

It’s hot work to cut back bougainvillea,
And no thorns are as sharp as the thorns of bougainvillea.

Some days in March it burns my eyes to see them
Because no red is so red as red bougainvillea.

The fire that touches them turns leaves into blossoms.
The fire burns deep in the long arms of bougainvillea.

I remember when I planted them hoping they’d grow
Over the wood fence, turning it all to bougainvillea.

But, the vines thickened between the planks and broke
Them apart.  Now heavy clusters of bougainvillea

Hang down to the ground.  There is no disorder in the world
Like the burning disorder of bougainvillea.


The Class

Each time, we draw the chairs together, almost in a circle.
Sometimes, there are nine of us, or ten, making up the circle.

One man has been here for thirty-one years, he is friendly
To everyone, but he sees everything.  His eyes make a circle.

Another had visitation with his family this Easter for the first time.
He left them to go inside, and now their lives make a circle.

His grandchild is beautiful, and someone takes pictures
He’ll look at till his eyes wear out.  The child plays in a circle.

One collects rhymes and says he will leave here in a few months.
He used to hitchhike to California and back, making a circle.

Others, if they have hopes of getting out, don’t mention it.
They’ve learned to survive by repeating days in a circle.

They watch the earth go around the sun.  They watch years fall like
Rain on the wire fence that surrounds them, almost in a circle.


GEORGE FRANKLIN tries to squeeze in as much as he can: he is a poet, teacher, critic, yogi, father, and attorney.  His poems have been published in The Ghazal Page, Salamander, The Threepenny Review, The Quarterly, and Verse, and his criticism in ELH.  Ghazals have been a great favorite since he first heard Agha Shahid Ali read years ago in Cambridge, MA.  He now lives in Miami, Florida, where the streets stretching west to the Everglades remind him of the lines of ghazals.