Issue > Poetry
Jennifer Franklin

Jennifer Franklin

Jennifer Franklin (AB Brown University, MFA Columbia University School of the Arts) is the author of two full collections, most recently No Small Gift (Four Way Books 2018). Her poetry has been published widely in print and online including Blackbird, Boston Review, Gettysburg Review, Guernica, Love's Executive Order, The Nation, Paris Review, Plume, “poem-a-day” on poets.org, Prairie Schooner, and Sixth Finch. She teaches poetry at Hudson Valley Writers Center, where she serves as Program Director. She lives in New York City.

Memento Mori: Moth


You stand in the early morning summer light,
thirty-three floors above the traffic inching below us.
When you grab the moth, I don't know what to do.
My mouth falls open as the elevator door we're about to enter.
You hold it while it struggles. I startle you when I call
your name and you release it. It must have been injured;
again its thin, taupe wings are between your fingers.
Let go of the butterfly.

(You never accepted the word moth and have no use
for synonyms.) I don't know if you understand
or if you let go on your own. Everything's like this
with us; I know next to nothing. I cannot forget
your smile as you fix the fluttering wings between
your fingers, oblivious to the suffering you cause.

Memento Mori: Winter

For some, it's a skull, sitting sideways
on a side table, smooth as ice. For you,
it's snow, stacked still and stately on the sidewalk,
deceptive as promises. It stalks you
all winter, yet you refuse to fly away
to warmer climes. It whispers what happened
that February—the spun car, the seatbeltless driver
who stole the school's youth with his stiff coffin. 

You know how it feels to be a tree stump,
unmovable as the oak's thick bark, suffocated by snow.
Whenever you see the slick white, you wonder how
you resisted all the drugs, incidental and prescribed
that tempted you for decades. After each surgery,
you wean yourself off the hard pills the color of angels' wings.

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