In their city, poets were given no special consideration. They leased
Apartments on the upper floors of readers’ thoughts, a few rooms,
Comfortable but not showy: the table and chairs inherited
From a previous resident, a bed, a television, and some books.
Informed that barbarians gathered at the border, their response
Was initially skeptical, having read Cavafy. But they also remembered
His poem about Phernazis the Cappadocian and kept working,
Typing on their laptops or, if there was no electricity, scratching notes
On any kind of paper. Soon, like everyone else, they hid in basements,
Learned to distinguish the sounds different types of missiles make
When approaching a target, maybe the housing complex
Next to the supermarket or the park with its statue of a surly
Eminence they used to joke about, the one they took selfies in front of.
How serious he looks, how disapproving.
Is the statue still there? Or does it only exist on a hard drive
Or in a notebook or memorized so that it can’t be lost unless
Its poets are lost? When pet dogs wander off, they head for the forest
Where they turn feral, kill rabbits and squirrels, scavenge for carrion
In the snowbanks. But poets don’t have the luxury of going feral.
In the ruins of a shopping mall, they make fires out of dictionaries,
Warm their hands over encyclopedias. When there are no more
Slices of cake or milky tea, no more tables in cafés, or waiters
Who recognize them, who inquire how the book is coming along,
They make do with a swallow of something wet and compose
Irregular sonnets while filling sandbags to hold off Caesar’s legions.
In the absence of coffee, they write about mixing the dark grounds into
Soil for the garden and pinwheels spinning to keep away sparrows and crows.
In the absence of gardens, they write about coffee, how the machine
Hissed with steam and they’d close their eyes for the first sip.
George Franklin is the author of four poetry collections: Noise of the World (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions), Traveling for No Good Reason (winner of the Sheila-Na-Gig Editions competition in 2018), a dual-language collection, Among the Ruins / Entre las ruinas (Katakana Editores), and a chapbook, Travels of the Angel of Sorrow (Blue Cedar Press). Individual publications include: Panoply, Cagibi, Sequestrum, The Threepenny Review, Verse Daily, Pedestal Magazine, and The American Journal of Poetry. He practices law in Miami, teaches poetry workshops in Florida prisons, and co-translated, along with the author, Ximena Gómez’s Último día/Last Day (Katakana Editores). Website: https://gsfranklin.com/