Kitsch – George Franklin

There were Dresden figurines up on the mantle,
A music teacher despairing at how badly

His students played.  The child musicians had
The rosy cheeks you’d expect they’d have

And skin whiter than snow in some remote
European village.  Whatever made those fragile

Cheeks rosy, it wasn’t blood.  Beneath the mantle
Was a gas heater, fireplace without a chimney,

A hissing valve, and a blue flame.  It was a damp
Heat, and in winter the air seemed thick and

Hard to breathe.  If there was a story behind these
Pasty knick-knacks, I never heard it, but

Someone, probably my mother, must have thought
They were beautiful, inhabiting a world

Pure as mathematics, without insults, rudeness,
Or beatings, a world where nothing breaks,

No one goes hungry, no miscarriages or
Cancers, where the local policeman is a quaint

Old drunk who wags a porcelain finger at
Minor miscreants, where there are no bad

Smells and no one dies in prison.  After my
Father’s funeral, I sold the figures along

With a large glass pitcher for martinis,
A silver tea set, and the dining room table

That came from a plantation in Mississippi—
They were all kitsch, nothing to do with my

Parents’ lives or mine.  Today though, I
Watch the usual procession of white clouds

Cross the summer sky and think that if my
Parents were fools to admire these things, then

Socrates was a fool and Plato too.  What
Were those Dresden toys but shadow puppets

Cast on the wall of a cave by firelight?

George FranklinGeorge Franklin is the author of two poetry collections: Traveling for No Good Reason (winner of the Sheila-Na-Gig Editions competition in 2018) and a bilingual collection, Among the Ruins / Entre las ruinas, as well as a recent broadside, ‘Shreveport.’ Individual publications include: The Lake, Into the Void, The Threepenny Review, The Blue Nib, Salamander, Pedestal Magazine, Cagibi, and The American Journal of Poetry. He practices law in Miami, teaches poetry workshops in Florida state prisons, and most recently is the co-translator, along with the author, of Ximena Gómez’s Último día/Last Day (forthcoming from Katakana Editores).