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,
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).