Brodsky in New York

He would tear the filters off his low-tar cigarettes

And pile them in a pyramid while he smoked.  You must

Learn to write sonnets, he said, so you can only be

Fooled by someone who can write a better one.

Each class began with writing out from memory

A poem assigned the week before.  He paced outside,

Impatient in the hall, while we scratched away trying to get

Each comma right.  Then we’d talk, books closed, the

Poem hanging in empty space.  What adjective can you use

To describe the air?  Auden—a stroke of genius—found

“Neutral.”  We worked through so many poems this way.

What’s the best line?  Why?  Rhymes make a poem

Feel inevitable.  The washing machine is an historical

Necessity; poems are not.  I asked if rhyme wasn’t a trick,

And he said, Yes, but it’s a good one.  Translating Frost

And Donne had kept him alive in prison, in the far north.

He’d been a “social parasite” but almost never mentioned

It.  I only remember once, obliquely.  I’d made some foolish

Comment about the grave in “Home Burial” and the dirt

Left over from the husband’s digging.  He looked up from his

Filters and asked if I’d ever dug a grave?  Puzzled, not knowing

Where this was headed, I said no.  He smiled and replied,

Lucky you.



George 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 (Katakana Editores), as well as a broadside, ‘Shreveport,’ published by Broadsided Press. Individual publications include: Matter Monthly, Into the Void, The Threepenny Review, 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 (Katakana Editores).