3 A.M.

It’s 3 a.m., too late to start a poem,

Too late also to think about your mother

In the nursing home, her gray hair

Long, child-like, her arms bent close

To her chest, her body fetal in a hospital

Gown.  You weren’t there when she died,

But you watched your father as he

Went into arrest, heard the dust rattle

That came from his throat, a sound

Unlike any he’d ever spoken.  Earlier

That day, he’d looked at you and said

He didn’t understand why he had cancer. 

He slipped between pain and morphine,

His liver failing, heart unable to keep up. 

You told him you’d be staying, and that

Confused him too.  A nurse woke you

At 1 or 1:30 to say, “He’s dying.” 

You stood by the bed, watching. 

It wasn’t peaceful or holy.  His body

Just stopped, like yours will, like your

Mother’s did, like everyone’s body has

Who’s ever lived.  And, he blamed you,

Probably until the end.  His doctors had

Tried to tell him that colon surgery

Hadn’t fixed the problem.  The cancer

Was in his liver too.  He wouldn’t hear them,

So the doctors asked you to decide:

Curative or palliative?  You chose palliative,

And took the blame.  “You’ve killed me”—

His voice over the phone.  “You were

The one who chose this.”  Now, when

You’ve finished cleaning up and are

Reading with only the dog for company,

They call for your attention, your mother

Who couldn’t be moved from Louisiana

To Massachusetts and died alone, your

Father’s bony face as the nurse closed

His eyes.  Who are you to turn them

Away after all this time, even though

You’re tired and it’s too late to

Remember how they looked at you

Or their voices when they spoke?  Who

Are you to turn them away, even

Though it’s too late to write a poem?


George Franklin’s fifth poetry collection, Remote Cities (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions), and a dual-language collaboration with Colombian poet Ximena Gómez, Conversaciones sobre agua/Conversations About Water (Katakana Editores), arrive this year.  Previous and forthcoming publications include: Solstice, Rattle, One, Cagibi, New York Quarterly, Black Coffee Review, Tar River Poetry, The Ekphrastic Review, and the anthology Sharing This Delicate Bread: Selections from Sheila-Na-Gig online 2016-2021. He practices law in Miami and teaches poetry workshops in Florida prisons.  Website: https://gsfranklin.com/