At the prison where I teach, the guards
Never last very long. By the time
Buzzards migrate back in the fall and
Circle again over some roadkill,
They’ve left for a job with better pay.
The new ones dig with gloved fingers in
The pockets of my jacket, pull out
Tissues or Bic pens, then put them back,
And the guard patting me down forgets
To have me lift each foot to check my
Socks for contraband. It doesn’t
Matter, though. I leave my money in
The car, next to my cell phone, and—no,
No weapons or drugs. I complain to
My students about how long it takes
To get in when there’s a line or when
Shift changes. One laughs and reminds me,
“It takes a lot longer to get out.”
My oldest son tells me my poems make him sad.
I tell him they do the same to me.
I think too much about my own parents,
How their lives ended in sheets changed
By nurses, blue pads soaked with urine,
In caregivers who locked themselves out
Of the house by accident, decubitus ulcers,
My father’s swollen belly, bone-shrunk face,
My mother’s clenched hands, frozen elbows.
For a while, a woman tended her who claimed
To understand each mumbled phrase. She says
She wants her milkshake now. It wasn’t true,
But I lived in Boston, not Louisiana. Finding
People to care for her wasn’t easy.
The same woman brought a teddy bear
And posed it in the crook of my mother’s arm.
She loves her teddy bear.
It made me angry to see it, but I didn’t say anything.
If treating her like an infant made it easier, there
Wasn’t much to do about it, and by then,
My mother didn’t recognize anyone.
George Franklin has written four books of poetry: Noise of the World, Traveling for No Good Reason, Among the Ruins/Entre las ruinas, and Travels of the Angel of Sorrow, and he has co-translated, along with the author, Ximena Gómez's Último día/Last Day. He teaches poetry in Florida state prisons and works as an attorney in Miami. More information can be found at https://gsfranklin.com/.