My son and I were talking about dictators, the sign that
Says “vacancy” hanging on their chests like a medal, a hollow
Space, a room with no furniture, derelict, abandoned. The rest of us
Have no trouble moving in, putting our bed in the corner, our desk
By the window, turning on a light—the emptiness is an invitation
To want things, people, sunlight reflected in waterdrops, the moon reflected
In the pupil’s depths. But, my son and I were talking about dictators,
Men who know there’s a country inside them, who can see its borders
Clearly, who set up checkpoints and fences, watchtowers, and machine guns.
The machine guns point out toward everything else, the country on
The other side of the fence, the lights of the city they can see in the dark,
They always have very good vision; they eat carrots to see better at night.
Their eyes are always pointed in the same direction as the machine guns.
If anything moves or stirs in the wind, they give instructions to fire, to Fire the machine
guns that point outside the fence. The tree trunks are
Splintered by bullets. There are no birds left in the forest. My son asks what
Are they protecting, behind the watchtowers and the fence, and I
Tell him “nothing.” They are afraid to look there, frightened by the acres
Of rubble, rough pieces of stone, by the dust and the wind that doesn’t
Stop blowing, by the sound that’s not a sound. Think of it like ringing in
Your ears that never lets up. It’s a place where no one speaks. If words
Could be formed there, then that place would be no different from anywhere else,
But it is different. Words never make it past the fence, past the machine guns,
Past a dictator who barely sleeps for fear that dreaming he’ll see the space
Inside his chest, the horizon of rubble.
George Franklin practices law in Miami and teaches poetry workshops in Florida state prisons. His work appeared in Issue #20 of Matter and more recently in The Threepenny Review, Pedestal Magazine, B O D Y, Salamander, Cagibi, and The Wild Word, and translated into Spanish in various journals. A bilingual collection of his poems, Among the Ruins, is forthcoming from Katakana Editores.