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Thursday, February 20, 2020


by Jennifer Franklin

Our long coats are all that separate us from the cold. Half-way around the world, the sky opens to put out wildfires over the carcasses of burned marsupials. We wait for the subway, for the train. My daughter waits for her short yellow bus that arrives each morning with one sobbing boy. He would be a perfect metaphor of Orwell’s belief that we’re all alone if he didn’t look so sad, his shirt buttoned askew. Politicians preen and posture; the air is damp with acquittal. We bend our heads but not in prayer. Our palms hold small backlit tablets that promise information and escape. Miles north, a student paints a swastika in my old dorm. Another student covers it with a star. Only the dog is calm, sleeping in a circle in her clean fleece bed. Orwell wrote, “There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.” I try to put my daughter to sleep on time in her new room. As I read the familiar incantations, flowers climb up the lamp to the ceiling. All the animals have escaped the zoo. I want the story to end there. All of them tucked into the corners of the zookeeper’s room—breathing their heavy eucalyptus breath across the night. Their fur shining in the moonlight through the blinds.

Jennifer Franklin (AB Brown University, MFA Columbia University School of the Arts) is the author of two full collections, most recently No Small Gift (Four Way Books, 2018). Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Blackbird, Boston Review, New England Review, Gettysburg Review, Guernica, JAMA, Love’s Executive Order, The Nation, Paris Review, Plume, “poem-a-day” on, and Prairie Schooner. She is currently teaching poetry in Manhattanville’s MFA program. She also teaches manuscript revision at the Hudson Valley Writers Center, where she runs the reading series and serves as Program Director. She lives in New York City. The poem appearing here is from Jennifer’s forthcoming collection Momento Mori: Antigone.