August 1, 2016

Three Poems by Samuel Franklin: "Spring Break 2010," "Coffee Nights," and "Some Summer Work"

Samuel Franklin lives in Bloomington, Indiana. He's a tech writer by day and a poet by night. His first poetry book, The God Of Happiness, is forthcoming.

Spring Break 2010

Pine and oak filled our lungs,
the moon an unseen auger
while we passed nights on bunks
around a woodstove,

save one I spent in a branch-and-twig hut,
room only for me and a pillow.
Chilly mountain air broke
on blankets and black wool knit.
I slumbered peacefully in a way
that once was not so strange.

Hacking honeysuckle where it choked trees,
vines like claws of invasive monsters.
We bent in the rain, like stalks blown
by a wind on which we could almost hear
the ghosts of a native tongue,

the ancient language now almost lost.
The face of Sequoyah
painted on museum canvases,
the man who inked
the Cherokee tongue,
printed their sounds in strange syllabary.
Robed and learned hero
of America’s primeval spirit,
bringing light too late
to a doomed people
known for their absence in these mountains,
the trail carved with their blood and tears.

“We once were warriors,
greatest in the land,” a tribesman
told us, his body illuminated
by stars and firelight.
“No one crossed us. Now,
we’re homeless and hungry,
jobless, watching infomercials
because there’s nothing else to do.”

Conquered mobile homes,
a dusty handful of half-forgotten words,
shadows slouching toward a sunset
that long ago slipped to darkness.


Coffee Nights

They’d pin my face in line
and have a Hammerhead register-ready—
espresso sunk in a mug of black tar

that caught the edge of sundown.
The bars would light up down the street,
and I’d be a shadow at a table,

taming grad school with caffeine and bagels.
Mortared old walls, a snug castle
for writing midnight away,

the barista lost in Moby Dick,
headshop kids tapping packs of cigs,
some student sharing something hot with her term paper.

Other nights I’d be there
with Heaney and Sandburg in my pocket,
my own scribbles penned on sketchpaper,

my voice a strange murmur in the microphone,
a shaky beat gone out to shuffle
with the townpoets and the rhyme-folk,

their own chant-and-cadence mystic
in the coffesteam room, roasty aroma
dark and bitter and frothy,

brick-and-chink walls tattooed
and scrawled with poems and pleas,
the runic skin of Terre Haute.

Some Summer Work

Rot and straw-thick air,
mice turds and dirty feathers,
the odd bird bone here and there.

My knives shredding dusty cardboard boxes,
the hothouse a reprieve
from the cut-work, my snot black as soot.

Weighing crop-seed at a long wood counter,
their jars rowed behind me
like an apothecary’s hoard. Not so different,

really, from the heft and haul
of some summers later,
load and unload

of mowers and trimmers and gasoline gallons.
Weeding beneath July’s volcanic glare,
waking before the sun

when even dawn was a mist of heat
reflecting off my bike spokes.
Or from summers now,

when weekends entangle me
in vines to pull, plants to root,
wood to split, heat and splinters,

dirt and wet stone glittering
like memories unearthed
and set out to dry at sunset.

Samuel Franklin

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