Kosciusko, Mississippi

by J. Jeffrey Franklin

                                                                    for Mrs. J. C. Lucas, Sr.

Mornings we gather on the verandah in rockers
To catch the winter sun’s slant through the columns.
Miss Ginny, draped in her wheelchair, rocks a little
Out of habit, watches the passersby and, in distant
Pantomime, raises a hand to each hand that raises.

Afternoons, we climb the narrow stairs with books.
Here, in a miniature brass chest like a pirate’s,
An American Legion lapel pin, a brass asterisk
With enameled insignia your granddad wore after
The Great War, and with it a pair of flashy earrings

Dared once, perhaps, on a hot cotillion night —
Now cracked glass and tarnish. Befuddled from naps,
We rise to voices in the hall and an amber light
Ebbing from the windows, its currents threatening
To preserve us forever among the whispery murmurs.

But it’s the t.v. blaring downstairs. Propped before it,
She is dying, she who outlived him by twenty years,
The last of six generations in this house, is dying.
Still good for a rubber or bridge, she hasn’t quit.
Her good eye flashes yet with impish rage.

We could imagine your great-great-granddad
Striding down the main hall in riding boots with a whip,
But he was a banker and wore fine calfskin slippers.
History preaches romance, practices economics.
How can we, and how can we not,

Close it behind us with the click of a brass box.

J. Jeffrey Franklin, a native of Tennessee, has lived in Australia, Florida, North Carolina, and Colorado, where he is now an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Colorado at Denver. Franklin’s poems have appeared in The Hudson Review, Shenandoah, Many Mountains Moving, New England Review, and Arkansas Review, among others. His poem, “For a Student Who Reads ‘The Second Coming’ as Sexual Autobiography” will appear in Best American Poetry 2002. Franklin serves as poetry editor for North Carolina Literary Review .