The Memoirist

The open road always begins somewhere else,
Not so open. The story begins with the absence
Of story, a recollection of childhood illness,
A room with the shades drawn, fever, adults
Whispering as they shut the door. The hero
Will cross deserts and picture-book mountain ranges,
Ride through the snow on horseback or sip
Small glasses of liqueur with a countess, will
Know just the right moment to lock eyes
And touch. When he returns home, he vows
To be discrete, but memoir abhors discretion,
Revels in climbing over rooftops like Giacomo
The Venetian, to escape and move on. He is
Five years old, and they wake him because
The doctor is here. The black bag yawns,
And a hand withdraws a hypodermic. There
Are pills and blood tests, bored aunts who read to him
From Charles and Mary Lamb, who fall asleep with
Their mouths open, heads dropping as they speak.
The memoirist sits in cafés drinking absinthe with his
Well-known friends. He doesn’t like the taste but won’t
Admit it. There’s a fly in the water pitcher, and the woman
Across the room refuses to notice him no matter how
Loudly he speaks. He tells a story about being robbed
In New York, his attacker running away. It seems
To him that no one is paying attention, or perhaps he’s
Told the story before. He can’t remember. Taxicabs
Turned off their lights and kept going. Byron swam
The Hellespont despite his club foot and had the bad
Luck to die from wounds in battle. The road
Isn’t as open as it appears. Cellini made art to earn
The pope’s forgiveness. The memoirist changes hotels.
That one was drafty. You could hear the water closet
Drip from down the hall. What forgiveness exists
For crimes that never happened? His memories
Are lies, mechanical inventions, automatons that
Dance or play cards. There was a gazebo, a wet cheek,
A kiss that flattered only the teller, not the tale,
The lips reluctant and closed. The automaton
Requires a wind-up, then begins to dance, shifting
Its metallic weight from one foot to the other.


George Franklin’s most recent poetry collections are Remote Cities (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions,
2023), and a dual-language collaboration with Colombian poet Ximena Gómez, Conversaciones
sobre agua/Conversations About Water
(Katakana Editores, 2023). Individual publications
include: Solstice, Rattle, Matter, Cagibi, New York Quarterly, Sequestrum, Tar River Poetry, The
Threepenny Review,
and The Ekphrastic Review. He practices law in Miami and teaches poetry
workshops in Florida prisons. Website:

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