Gina Franco's collection of poems, The Keepsake Storm, was published by the University of Arizona Press Camino del Sol Latina/o Literary Series in 2004. Her work appears in numerous journals and anthologies, including BorderSenses, Copper Nickel, Fence, Black Warrior Review, The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, Seneca Reveiw, Crazyhorse, and The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry. She received an Academy of American Poets Prize, the Robert Chasen Poetry Prize, the Corson-Bishop Poetry Prize, and the 2006 Bread Loaf Meralmikjen Fellowship in Poetry. She divides her time between Galesburg, Illinois, where she is an assistant professor of English and creative writing at Knox College, and the Arizona desert where she grew up.
Her blog is at ghostword.blogspot.com.
Where the Bodies, Half-Dressed, in Pieces
For Carmen Rios, flood victim, Del Rio Texas, August 22, 1998
What blessings are left to them? They heap belongings
on the walk. Stones washed from their walls
lie about like teeth, one ache next to another.
Nature remains. A sodden box of photos, a wet TV.
A pile of Christmas ornaments winks
in the sun, so there is miracle. They find
new mosquitoes in toilets. In the kitchens, mold
creeps over the windows, in the bedrooms, a goat’s
carcass, a bag of trash, a used diaper,
a tree. They find they can put their hands
through walls. Of clay. So there is also
belief. Had belief come sooner, had a forecast
arrived—listen, it’s rain—the drought
is over—the flatlands are running over—but all
is quiet. Not yet a downpour, patient
at doors, not the emergency broadcast system
streaming across every screen. Not sirens,
thunder, screams, houses shuddering,
giving way below those crouching
on their rooftops. Not yet. First came
coincidence, a twist of fate, a man who towed
his motorboat to the nearby lake, trapped mid-storm
outside his neighborhood. Countless he rescued.
A woman hugging a rushing bush, brothers
perched on a truck, the old man who sells
melons all summer: where was he but among
the saved? So there are also numbers.
When the deluge arrived, I felt
eternity. I left my house. I took up
my cane and walked around in the dark, flicking
switches, banging into things, fighting, until I found
the door. I was up to my neck, swirling.
When it was time, water swallowed me too, down
in a cold flash to the streets where the hill
ends, where the bodies, half-dressed, in pieces,
are torn away from dreams. At Devil’s Bend, bodies
collected with the trees and refrigerators. The water
receded. The crane dug up hundreds rotting
off the bone, nine of whom were identified
as citizens. I am with them and their families
in the paper below the mayor’s address. The rest
were mejicanos, so of course there is also home.
In the funeral home where my daughter didn’t find me,
there was a body, stripped of all but a ring
that resembled my own, but again, it was not mine,
so for a time there was also hope.
From THE KEEPSAKE STORM (University of Arizona Press, 2004)
Gina Franco's reading at Smith November 13th, 2007
More poems (and longer bio) by Gina Franco