Jennifer Franklin

December 16, 2019 Franklin Jennifer



He was always unhappy—
anxious and waiting
for the fate he knew

would find him. Unable
to enjoy the fine food
and furniture he sought

and bought, the rooms
he designed and filled felt
empty. He never understood

why he was so unsatisfied
with what he fought for.
When he sat at the head

of the table in his sleek new
kitchen and stared at his wife,
who dyed her hair to look

young, he couldn’t fathom
the gratitude other successful
men professed. Only the dog

didn’t cower at his rants
or moods, changeable as fog.
As he cut the balls

on the pool table in the basement
or cut meat at the glass table,
we felt his silent rage. Even before

he turned the knife to his eyes,
we saw how he held it down.
At night, as the sun set in the quiet

kitchen, we told him stories—
showed him the smartest version
of ourselves. We wanted to believe

that, along with mother’s dark
beauty, we could make him
happy. He didn’t see us.

His eyes focused on the dying
hibiscus through the glass
door, wilted, closed to the sunset.


Until she died, I couldn’t admit
she had flaws. She always put on

a brave face, a good show. Even
in the mornings, she was cheerful—

singing to wake us for school,
making us laugh as she served

cinnamon toast. I worshiped
her as she stood by the window

in her silk robe, resembling Claudia
Cardinale. Maybe it was the prophecies

that made her anxious and controlling.
Maybe she realized who her husband was

after it was too late. She turned all
her attention to us—so much scrutiny

nothing could thrive. Everything
she liked, I had to like. She brought me

to antique shows, made me pick old dolls
with hard, musty hair and eyes that stared

at me from the white wicker shelves all night
as I slept. She picked my wedding

dress but sought advice from my brother
because he was in the world and knew things.

She didn’t really start loving me until my life
unraveled and I stood before her as helpless

and wounded as I was at birth when I
disappointed her with my one blonde eyelash.

Her experiment failed. It was impossible to tell
if that saddened or comforted her. Her face

remained inscrutable as the rows of marble
busts that line the walls of every museum.

Jennifer Franklin is the author of three poetry collections including If Some God Shakes Your House (Four Way Books, 2023). She is the recipient of a City Artist Corps/NYFA grant in poetry a CRCF grant in literature and teaches poetry workshops in Manhattanville’s MFA program and at the Hudson Valley Writers Center, where she is Program Director.