I want all the things I had — by Emily Franklin

I want all the things I had

that woven bag, leather straps worn soft
so they did not cut into my shoulder
even when filled with textbooks

that three-tiered skirt, flowered fabric
elastic waist and flounce as though I was
the center of a flower and spring lasted longer

my grandfather’s sweater and him in it,
constellation of moth holes on the chest
which I hid with my hand as though pledging to him

his double-handled mug which held Folgers
and Sweet n’ Low and also tidal mornings,
marshy swims, but really I don’t want the mug

I want back the hands holding the mug
and that deep laugh as though he knew the ocean’s
secrets, everything sunk and funny in its doom

that hat with bells and ribbons my father brought
home from Russia before I was born and which
seems jester-odd, the magic of a life before I was in it

my mother’s bathroom bag quilted with violets
its mystery contents – lotions, necklace webs,
scents long gone, wafting back, reclaimed—

the fifteen dollar earrings I bought myself when
I understood I was worth giving gifts to, stars
and moons, tiny solar systems swinging with joy—

I want back a pair of shorts, also flowered
either because that was the fashion or because
flowers made it feel like growth was coming

I know they were soft – the skirt, the straps, his sweater
the hands, the bag – soft as loss, baggy and worn, this safe
longing, the want of gone, impossible things I want


Emily Franklin’s work has been published or is forthcoming in The New York Times, The Cincinnati Review, New Ohio Review, Shenandoah, Guernica, Blackbird, Tar River, The Rumpus, Cimarron Review, Passages North, North Dakota Review, and The Chattahoochee Review among other places, as well as featured on National Public Radio, long-listed for the London Sunday Times Short Story Award, and named notable by the Association of Jewish Libraries. Her debut poetry collection will be published by Terrapin Books in February 2021.