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Poetry

 

Where We Lay Down

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Where We Lay Down is a multifarious and expansive collection, inclusive of a wide range of voices, places, and experiences, far from a single-themed book. It swings from bathing a baby in the kitchen sink to emptying a grandfather’s closet, from sailing off of Australia to politics in a hardware store in Fairplay, CO, from being awakened in the woods by a porcupine to swimming with manatees in Belize, and from the death of a teenage sister to one’s own aging and mortality. Many of the poems tell a story. Some are dramatic monologues, such as a woman photographer in Nigeria or Huck Finn in middle age. The humor in life is not neglected, with 10 or more poems meant to draw a smile. There are six themed sections: 1) Fathers and Sons; 2) Making Love; 3) Making War, historically and politically; 4) Homing, seeking home in multiple places; 5) Totem Animals; and, 6) Full Emptiness, the illusion of an essential identity.

Where We Lay Down
 is Jeffrey Franklin’s second poetry collection, though it might be the “best selected” of his formal verse over the past 20+ years. Following such poets as Donald Justice, with whom he studied, he writes in a wide diversity of forms, from blank verse to free verse, sestinas to syllabics. His work shows the influences of poets who preceded the New Formalism movement, such as Philip Larkin, Elizabeth Bishop, and Les Murray. The collection’s content gravitates toward childhood and parenthood, place, cultural and political differences, loss, and the illusiveness of identity, with animal and humorous poems leavening the mix. 

 

Praise for Where We Lay Down

"Where We Lay Down is the work of a perceptive, mature, and generous soul who ponders the complications of a great many things—family, roots, relationship, history, and literature—in coming to terms with the burdens of our inheritance. Jeffrey Franklin offers serious, nuanced, and often playful meditations on these particular aspects of what it is to be human in beautiful formal verses that make delicious use of our rich English word-hoard at every turn. It is the record of an intelligent quest for authenticity, and for how one manages ‘Living Right’ at this particular moment in time."


– Sidney Wade, author of Deep Gossip, New and Selected Poems

 
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Where We Lay Down, Section II: Making Love

Artwork: "Nude", pen-and-ink, by James R. Franklin

 

Living Right

Published in Rattle

by Jeffrey Franklin

Where I come from, what they call “living right” 

most often means no liquor and no sex, 

except what’s sanctioned by the state of marriage, 

and only then with hurried indifference,

plus regular appearances at church.


Only men need worry about living right, 

since women had gotten themselves, or been stuck,

minding the store of moral goods and notions

and, as far as men could tell, forgotten how

to live wrong. And so, naturally, such men,


resenting women for the only power

they’d given them to exercise, and guilty

for their aversion to living right, wrested

a counter definition from the margins

of socially acceptable behavior,


according to which they failed to love the children

the women had, in their minds, forced upon them,

and took to the woods, where they might exercise

a purgative prerogative to kill,

followed by heavy drinking, during which—


and usually while pissing side-by-side,

gazing up at a bleary moon together—

they’d in an epiphanic gush concur

that this was—“goddamn right!”—living right.

So, this morning when our houseguest said, 


“You folks sure know how to live right,” I paused.

Surely not the Southern brimstone version, 

and not its sexist doppelganger either. 

Not the living right that characters 

in films affect—and their actors imitate—


of smoking fifty-buck cigars, driving 

sports cars faster than the speed of self-inflation

until the cancer or the smash-up gets them.

And, not the New Age fix of cheating death

via a regiment of yoga classes


and fat-free, chem-free, taste-free reinforcements,

though, true, we’d served him farmer’s-market fare

stir-fried in ginger sauce the night before.

If what he meant was wine for taste, laughter

spilling in waves around a room of friends,


stories that each retelling deepens, and sex

if less often then less hurried, if more

honest then hotter for it, if sometimes playful

then sometimes reverential for close enough

to church, and if, as I’d expect, all this


regulated by love of work that’s good,   

midway between the Buddhist Middle Way 

and middle-class protesting conformity,

then, hell, let’s puff a fifty-cent cigar

and go for a spin in the station wagon, honey.

 

Where We Lay Down, Section IV: Homing

Artwork: "The Campsite", pen-and-ink, by James R. Franklin

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The Persistence of Place

by Jeffrey Franklin

Already my ghost is fading from those rooms,

these rooms, now that habit of thought’s

transported me back to inhabit them once more.

Like all ghosts, I’ve forgotten what it is I ought


to be seeking, here in the stunned vacancy of our den,

in the perpetual dusk of nostalgia, and so find myself

lingering, peering about absentmindedly,

an unexpected guest in my own past life.


My children are living happily in another city

with me, but I miss them, orphaned as they now are

from a place of the childhood they don’t yet know

was theirs. So, I drift through their rooms, a diver


revisiting spectral gangways and cabins,

or like the man who goes to work and returns

home to find everything inexplicably gone—

dents in the carpet, fill-in-the-blank dust patterns—


and can only stare with rapturous fascination

at details that never were so much themselves:

this wall’s geography of rivering cracks

and continental stains, that odd wedge of shelves


beneath the stairs, these porcelain clothes-hooks.

Startling, so much of us is absent, absence.

I sometimes think we are the places we’ve lived, 

less that we leave behind some part of us


than that each leaves in us a part of it,

becoming the map that guides as we fill it in.

Like all ghosts, I go on hungering to settle 

with myself, but I’m not home. Yet. Again.

 

 

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Where We Lay Down, Section VI: Full Emptiness

Artwork: "Busker on Ball With Strings", pen-and-ink, by James R. Franklin

 

Where We Lay Down

Published in storySouth

by Jeffrey Franklin

We slept that summer on the second-story porch,  

our cots within arm’s reach, and talked of school 

or a trick played on Charlotte. Our voices dropped

as the watery half-light drew itself back out

through the cut-paper layerings of leaves. 


When the chorus of trees began to whine and pitch, 

the leaves singing the song of distances, 

and someone took the sky and shook it out

with sparks like mother shook from white laundry,

the rain beat through the screen, and we leapt up,


scooting the cots to the center of the floor, jumped back

in the damp sheets, shivering though it was hot.

The next flash fixed us in a marble frieze.

Years later, waking in the receding tug of dream,

you’ll hear again the runoff falling from the eaves


in rivulets, drops, then slower, heavier drops,

and find the line of pock marks in the dirt, 

and lift your head to see the slice of roof

against the sky’s blue invitation, which you 

accepted, and know that Charlotte is dead


and so somehow still too young to join us 

in the darkening air. Recall for me then what

I always meant to say before it began

when the leaves drop and turn at once in a hush: 

if this storm will take me, I will give it my arms and rise up.

 

Autumnal Equinox

by Jeffrey Franklin

Lolling on the back deck in the sun

at the moment it eases into Libra,

I feel a perfect equilibrium struck,


and though it is mid-morning, the sun,

scattering its shipwreck’s coins

on the sea-bottom beneath the crabapple,


shines with that dreamy quality of light

I know mid-afternoon will match precisely:

resolution balancing expectancy.


I slump into a comfortable sadness, but then,

like a teetering bamboo fountain, I tip

into joy, refilling all the while with sadness.


When the breeze lifts, the stirred leaf shadows

are mesmerist’s hands. Millennia of clouds

sweep over the face of the earth, again


as before the sun keyholes the stone

to flare in the facets of chiseled hieroglyphs,

wine runnels chest hair and bared breasts


as Persephone falls to the arms of her dark lover,

and the ruddy harvest tumbles into root cellars.

I can hear the infinite host of insects


genuflect in unison around the globe,

the circadian clocks resetting in the breasts 

of every goshawk, hummingbird, and peafowl.


A crabapple falls into my lap. Opposite the stem,

a puckered brown anus that was the flower.

I turn it on my palm, yellow to pink to crimson.

 
Coming Soon
 


 

Lost Boys

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Praise for For the Lost Boys

"The richly descriptive poems, often telling stories of the South and the West, are the careful accumulations of an assimilative mind. Jeffrey Franklin can juxtapose a paintball game to a real war, write of the self ‘far from purified,’ or ask of a clown, ‘How many decades can a man sham wonder?’ Yet this array of landscapes, characters, and experiences feels braided into the soul of an acute observer, an artist upon whom nothing is lost. . . .With its textured vision of reality and imagination, For the Lost Boys is a solid achievement, a welcome debut."


– David Mason, author of Sea Salt: Poems of a Decade, 2004–2013

 

Sample Poem: "Black Pattern on a Mocha Ground"

Website: Asheville Poetry Review (Link below)

 

Sample Poem: "Boundaries of Seeing"

Poetry Society of America, Robert H. Winner Memorial Award (Link below)

 


 

Online Published Poems

"Boundaries of Seeing"

Poetry Society of America, Robert H. Winner Memorial Award

"Excitement of Getting a Room with a Minibar"

Website: Rattle

"Living Right"

Website: Rattle

"Kosciusko, Mississippi"

Website: storySouth

Where We Lay Down

Website: storySouth

"Black Pattern on a Mocha Ground"

Website: Asheville Poetry Review

"The Reading"

Website: Asheville Poetry Review