Jeffrey Franklin

The Reading

You sleep on sheets frosted

with our lotion and sand,

a yellow carnation

tucked behind your ear,

arcade screams and swatches

of oompah music wafting

from the boardwalk, backed

by the steel-brush waves.

But something more than wind

lifts these curtains, causing them

to swell, hover like the hand

of an unveiling medium,

which draws me to the cool sill:

something far distant

comes this way, but no,

it’s here already,

all along. Listen:

the low hubbub of seasonal voices

layers these walls, love cries

and bickering, castles and prisons,

confused now with overlapping

like the pages of coverless

salt-choked novels,

channeled and beckoning

from that miniature hand-tinted photo.

In it, a woman kissing

the tip of her index finger

rests an elbow on the table

where just now she has spread

a perfect fan of cards.

Wreathed in pink muslin,

her left shoulder left bare,

she has fixed her long hair

with one spiral motion

and a chopstick. Now,

in the attitude of easing

over a pool of bright fishes

so as not to spook them,

she leans forward,

the luffing curtains

unfurl and retract fingers

of shadow along the dune

of your body,

your breathing measures

a new quietness, slowly,

with the kissed finger,

she draws the card

that will be ours.