A Briefe & Marveyllous Hystory of Franklin

After two years of pregnancy
& the poor lass
had still not given birth
could hardly squeeze through doors
they named the unborn
Franklin & called a sawbones.
The family convened
for dinner at the far edges
of a mahogany table
like opposite shores of a lake
under which at long last
Franklin wriggled free.
Father’s soup spoon fell: “Harke yee,
’tis a hors,” he said.
Yes, Franklin was a black colt.
He stared at them, his family,
his eyes clear as a cave pool.
In their eyes he observed
numberless blossoms or eggs
hatching. Fur slathered
in seaweed of another age,
he wiped his face with a hoof,
he spake: “Semes th’ ocean-seas
be wyder yet.” In those months
Franklin did not adapt
to the mansion. Did not adore
his big-as-an-equipage
oaken bassinet. Did not love
the hyperactive crosseyed
hound. Even his blood kin
their ringlets their grass stains
their ditties
he could do without.
What he liked was the barn,
its pigs & goats & sheep.
He squirmed out
of the embroidered cardigan
his mother knit.
His favorite bed, dry hay.
He grew colossal, twice any horse
they’d seen. The family,
mistaking his bulk
& his intelligent eyes
for menace, kept their distance.
Said the priest, “Lijk to him
y neuere noon knewe.”
Franklin knew which days
were slaughter days.
He knelt in the barn
with each animal
whose morning had come.
Today it is Sally the pig.
He nestles his great black nose
on her belly. He wants
as he always wants
to emancipate them,
to lead them to the blue field
he dreamt of. But where is
the blue field? And what then?
To himself he reasons
Be not conformed to this truth
but be ye transformed
by the renewing of—
what? So he consoles Sally
telling her that this life
is a “furyous dræm”
that he’ll see her again anon
that she has been chosen
for suffering, which is noble.
Sally blinks. After an hour
he crouches low. Sally steps upon
his back & he walks her
the long way around the pond
as slow as he can.

John Wall Barger

John Wall Barger

John Wall Barger’s poems appear in American Poetry Review, Rattle, The Awl, The Cincinnati Review, Poetry Ireland Review, and Best of the Best Canadian Poetry. His poem, “Smog Mother,” was co-winner of The Malahat Review’s 2017 Long Poem Prize. His fourth book, The Mean Game, is coming out with Palimpsest Press in spring 2019. He lives in Philadelphia and is an editor for Painted Bride Quarterly. johnwallbarger.com
John Wall Barger

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Author: John Wall Barger

John Wall Barger’s poems appear in American Poetry Review, Rattle, The Awl, The Cincinnati Review, Poetry Ireland Review, and Best of the Best Canadian Poetry. His poem, “Smog Mother,” was co-winner of The Malahat Review’s 2017 Long Poem Prize. His fourth book, The Mean Game, is coming out with Palimpsest Press in spring 2019. He lives in Philadelphia and is an editor for Painted Bride Quarterly. johnwallbarger.com