Where We Lay Down
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
Where We Lay Down, Section II: Making Love
Artwork: "Nude", pen-and-ink, by James R. Franklin
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
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.
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.
Published in Southern Poetry Review
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.
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)