Two Poems by Ariel Francisco


Before Snowfall

French has no word for home.

—Jack Gilbert


I found Baudelaire on a street corner

near Washington Square Park for two dollars

on a flimsy table littered with orphaned books:


a faded, cracked paperback, lavender

as the lingering winter evening that draped

the skyline like a dust jacket, and small enough


to squeeze into a standard-sized envelope,

which I did, after scribbling a little note

on the inside cover to a girl back home.


She never got the book, which was in French,

and we never spoke again in any language,

though I always wondered what happened


to the book, probably lost in the dead letter office,

that mass grave of undelivered letters,

moldy packages, and illegible birthday cards.


Still, when winter arrives every year like a janitor

to sweep the fallen leaves, and I’m reminded

of what is lost, I like to imagine


a homeless man fishing my envelope

out of that dropbox on Broadway

before the mailman gets to it,


digging for Christmas cards from grandma

stuffed with cash for her favorite grandkid,

and instead finding Baudelaire.


He clutches the book with ungloved hands,

slumping down against the dropbox

in resignation, and flips it open


to my little note, which simply says

tell me, is the snow coming down

on you, too? And I imagine him looking up,


his gaze tracing the skyline until it reaches

the grey horizon, thinking of all the nowheres

to go to lay his head down tonight,


saying out loud:

Not yet, my friend. Thank goodness,

not yet.



Reading Bukowski at Gramps Bar in Miami


A small stained glass lamp in the corner

gives me light to read by. The bartender

keeps refilling my glass with liquid gold

like a goddamn alchemist and the promo

girls are giving out free Jameson. My tab

is open and I don’t bother to check the time.

There’s a blonde eyeing me from across

the tottering room with her bluebird eyes

and I’m tempted to smash the little lamp

over my own head, scoop up the glass

pieces in quivering hands, and offer

them to her as the shards of my heart.



ARIEL FRANCISCO is a Miami poet currently completing his MFA at Florida International University where he is also assistant editor of Gulf Stream. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Boiler Journal, Duende, Jai-Alai Magazine, Portland Review, Print-Oriented Bastards, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere.