The Neighborhood

The Neighborhood by James Croal Jackson

 

(originally published in Parentheses Journal, Fall 2017)

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What We Talk About When We Talk About

Pepper burned my mouth
and all I could think of
in that salivated flame
was you telling me your tongue
no longer felt the heat
of a moment: meaningless
sex– bite and garment
here between the green
walls of your zen room
your small goldfish
swimming in circles–
submerged flame and hunger
for love so intense
I flicker poems to you
thumbs on lighters
waiting for the matchbook
to catch– combed pomade
hair, designer jeans, and wit–
what I want is origami
and fire– instead
we talk about love
but unlike Raymond Carver
we have nothing
more to say.

 

(originally published in Words Dance, Summer 2017)

Consuming Raw Chicken

can be severely detrimental, but don’t panic–
salmonella can be killed. You must know
its internal temperature. If not fully known,
your risk of distress increases. The dark tunnel.
The bones. If you suffer from adverse effects,
you will know within seventy-two hours.
Chills, fever, fatigue. Hallucinations.
If there is blood in you, inform your doctor
immediately. He may request a sample
to determine if you are alive, if symptoms
are what you’re even there for.

 

(originally published in The Blotter Magazine, Summer 2017)

The Christmases That Were Forever

my own advice: treat every gift
like you’re nine in ninety-seven.
rip the heart out of your parents’
wrapping jobs. don’t notice
the hanging phone calls,
the coils of collection,
the foggy snarls at the door,
the stay-in-bed allure radiating
from big, red boxes hidden
behind the couch for after
we opened all the other presents,
for after we grew up,
after we got jobs.

 

(originally published in The Drunken Llama, Fall 2017)

Maggie

After you invited me to your brother’s jazz
concert you said you liked me too much
and I couldn’t handle that, the thought

of our togethered trombone slide into an infinity
accompanied by spacetime’s deep sound.
I avoided you the only way I knew how:

my absence for your words a dangling CO2.
This, another failed online dating experience,
a week and (it was electric for a time) the zap

of each other in a cold January condo over and
over, a thousand volts then whole note rest,
a singed week’s limb removed by blizzard wind.

 

(originally published in Postcard Poems and Prose, 2017)

An Oncoming Train

We waddled over grates along train tracks
on a bridge above the river until a trembling
warned of what would come: soon, one of us
will leave the other. Running to safety in flip-
flops, it would not matter how it felt when
we held each other after stumbling off rail into
field because you said you finally found a thing
I’m scared of: the in-between of tracks. Heart
beating odds with brain. As the train passed,
horns blaring, you spoke something I could not
hear when we hugged as each car blurred forward
until we became a quiver, a silence, a kiss of
faded smoke dragging steel beyond the hills.

 

(originally published in Four Ties Lit Review, Fall 2017)