by Jennifer L. Freed

He chose the English name of Franklin.
In childhood he’d read of an old man by that name
who liked libraries, flew kites.

He asked why I took so many photographs
of common things—the small, bent woman
crossing the city street, carrying flapping chickens
by their feet; the dentist
treating patients on the sidewalk,
his pedal-powered drill.

He asked, how could I know
how to eat with chopsticks?
Was it true that Americans built special homes
where parents had to rest
when they grew old? And who was
that fat man of December?
Why did he dress, like a woman, in red?

Ten months teaching college English, then I flew
back home. For half a year,
Franklin and I filled careful envelopes
with polite, inconspicuous words—
the rain or snow, his friends at school,
a lovely mountain view.

All this—so many years ago. Franklin
never wrote again, after