It’s not that I think (if there is an I that thinks) that I’m an automaton,
Just that there are all these things we talk about as if they’re real
When we’ve really got no idea. I know that the orchid’s deep fuchsia
Catches my eye (sort of). I know what reasoning is, but
I don’t know what’s doing it. Oh, Descartes! Oh, Hume!
And oh, Bishop Berkeley, I won’t forget you either—although
I haven’t a clue what’s remembering you. Perhaps mind

Is the blackboard in my 2nd grade classroom. My teacher, Miss Davis,
Of unknown age and now in the company of the great philosophers,
Assigned us spelling words, and we’d write them out up there
In chalk and then remove them with erasers made of felt. But,
If you were sitting close enough, you could still see the blurry outlines
Of those scribbles. Very helpful when there was a pop quiz.

By now, my blackboard has been filled and erased so often it’s
A dusty palimpsest of letters, numbers, voices, poisonous plants, pet
__dogs, musicians—
Whole encyclopedia volumes with illustrations of hands and lips,
How black eyebrows looked on a moonless night against white skin.
Miss Davis, they’re all there, but I can’t make sense of them. Or,
I don’t know what making sense of them means. My grandfather,
__whom you knew,

Had a store house built of thick concrete and stucco set back behind
__the red brick house
Where we lived when he was sick. The store house was full of canned
__goods
And light bulbs, toilet paper, whiskey, and cleaning products, bottles
__of wine he’d
Bought or been given. I liked to spend hot afternoons in there where
__it was cool.
But, none of this helps. The can goods didn’t line themselves up with
__the whiskey
And write out equations or compose symphonies. The paper towels
__didn’t find themselves
Magnetically drawn to the shoe polish. Metaphors all collapse when
__we talk about whatever it is
That makes metaphors, and a metaphor that contains itself is a
__contradiction in terms.

Then again, we’re here, aren’t we? The chicken is roasting in the
__oven. I can smell
The sweet onions and the potatoes, the loaf of bread waiting on the
__table. Somehow,
Things happen, and we’re part of it. I think of the would-be disciple
__who begged Bodhidharma
To pacify his mind and Bodhidharma’s reply: “Show me your mind,
__and I’ll pacify it.”

Bodhidharma, I can’t show you my mind, but knowing that doesn’t
vmake me enlightened.
There’s no gland that squirts out ideas or memories, no throbbing
__brain cells that
One day decided to be a self. We sold my grandfather’s house more
__than half a century ago.
The new owners installed a swimming pool in the backyard. I don’t
__know
What happened to the store house.

 

GEORGE FRANKLIN works as an attorney in Miami and teaches poetry workshops in Florida state prisons. His poems have been most recently published in Salamander, B O D Y, Matter, Scalawag, Sheila-Na-Gig, Gulf Stream, Rumble Fish Quarterly, Amsterdam Quarterly, The Wild Word, and translated into Spanish in Alastor, Nagari, and Revista Conexos. New poems are forthcoming in The Threepenny Review and Cagibi. A bi-lingual edition of his poetry, translated by Ximena Gomez, is forthcoming from Katakana Editores.