Four Poems from Travels of the Angel of Sorrow

Read More: A brief Q&A with George Franklin

The Arrival of the Angel of Sorrow

The hinges didn’t creak or the latch open.  He was already
Sitting down when the tavern keeper looked up from wiping a glass.
He ordered wine, without explanation, and the tavern keeper brought him
A clay jug and a cup that was reasonably clean.  His accent was foreign,
But he spoke so little nobody was sure where he’d learned it.  Later though,
No one noticed, and they even got used to the sound of his wings
Brushing the floor when he moved.
He knew all the customers by name,
Listening to their stories with pleasure, or at least patience.
One described the smell of sheep’s wool and hay in the morning, steam
Rising, and noises the pigs made when they were hungry.  Another,
His orchard of blue plums, how his father used to make brandy from them, and
How it warmed you in winter.  He knew all the customers by name,
By what they’d lost, and by what they would lose.


 The Angel of Sorrow’s Turn to Buy

It was close to evening, and the floor was wet
With spilled wine and spittle.  The angel looked down
At his own reflection shimmering on the wood, and a lone
Tear flattened to a disk, silver with the worn portrait
Of a king that no one recognized.  Its legend was a pair of wings
And words in Aramaic.  The tavern keeper grumbled and rubbed it
Between his bruised thumb and forefinger, then admitted
It was coin and worth a round.
After the cheering ended, the angel
Stroked his cheek and spoke about a shipwreck off the coast
Of Egypt, unopened jars intended for the pharaoh and his sister-bride,
Kept cold in the silt for a thousand years, wrapped in seaweed and
Home to the sand crab and the eel.  The villagers all
Nodded at the waste of it.  A few began to weep.

untitledThe Angel of Sorrow Wakes Up

When the angel falls asleep in his chair, the villagers
Watch him like gamblers waiting for the next card to fall or the dice
To stop rolling.  He may open his eyes at any moment and stretch
His wings, knocking down stools and crockery.  The tavern keeper
Has moved the lamp, cautiously, to the other side of the room.  The angel
Does not mean to cause damage.  His dreams are horizons between
Worlds, and when he wakes, he never knows whether the faces
He sees are real.  He blinks and swallows, remembers sour wine and
Bread that tastes of sawdust and white mold.  He blinks once more.
His eyes are also wings.

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The Angel of Sorrow Goes for a Walk

The ones who are dead are generally quiet, but some who aren’t
Yet used to being dead still speak, asking for another blanket
Or a cup of tea with just a few drops of honey.  It’s in the jar on

The shelf, next to the small blue pot and the wooden spoon.  As he walks,
He hears these voices that are not voices at all, and sometimes he even
Answers them.  One asks, do you remember the blackberries we picked […]

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George Franklin is the author of Traveling for No Good Reason (winner of the Sheila-Na-Gig Editions competition in 2018), a bilingual collection, Among the Ruins / Entre las ruinas (Katakana Editores), and a broadside, “Shreveport” (Broadsided Press).  He is also the winner of the 2020 Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Prize.  His individual publications include: Into the Void, The Threepenny Review, Salamander, Pedestal Magazine, Cagibi, and The American Journal of Poetry, and poems are forthcoming in The Woven Tale Press Magazine and Cider Press Review. He practices law in Miami, teaches poetry workshops in Florida state prisons and is the co-translator, along with the author, of Ximena Gómez’s Último día/Last Day (Katakana Editores).  His chapbook, Travels of the Angel of Sorrow, is forthcoming from Blue Cedar Press, and a new full-length collection, Noise of the World, is forthcoming from Sheila-Na-Gig Editions. Find more at

Read More: A brief Q&A with George Franklin