Where We Lay Down

by J. Jeffrey Franklin

                                                                    for Henry

We slept that summer on the second-story porch,
Our cots within arms reach, and talked of school
Or a trick played on Charlotte, our voices dropping
As the watery half-light drew itself back out
Through the cut-paper layering of leaves.

When the chorus of trees began to whine and pitch,
And the leaves to sing the song of distances,
And someone took the sky and shook it out
With sparks like mother shook from white laundry,
And rain began to beat through the screens, we scooted

The cots to the center of the floor, jumping back
In the damp sheets, shivering, though it was hot.
The next flash fixed us in a marble frieze.
Years later, waking in the receding tug of dream,
You’ll hear again the runoff falling from the eaves

In rivulets, drops, then slower, heavier drops,
And find the line of pock marks in the dirt,
And lift your head to see the slice of roof
Against the sky’s blue invitation, which you
Accepted, and know then that Charlotte is dead

And so somehow still too young to join us
In the darkening air. Recall for me then what
I always meant to say before it began
When the leaves dropped and turned at once in a hush:
If this storm will take me, I will give it my arms and rise up.

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 .