The Neighborhood

The Neighborhood by James Croal Jackson

 

(originally published in Parentheses Journal, Fall 2017)

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After the Lancaster Beer Festival

I want you to read this:
my night was the endless Niagara.

Love, flowing along sediment
of bones and thorny breathing,

ends on a brown couch of dog
and cat hair nice against my jeans.

I woke there next to a loaded potato gun.
Can’t stop writing dirty things

on the Buddha board
hoping you will read them.

If not you,
anyone.

My bones’ silence
breathes thorns.

And the message always
erases itself.

 

(originally published in Serving House Journal, Fall 2017)

Brushing

As I run hot faucet water
over the head of my electric toothbrush,
Jennifer asks isn’t it better
when we brush our teeth together?

This, of course, is redundant.

I have cleaned the spit
and foam from my brush alone
through the years,
watched clean water slowly spiral
down a clog.

I have taken better care
of myself.

Flossed the plaque
between memories,
tartar of bad habits,
freshened breath
in and out of you.

These I can withstand.

Thus I answer at all.

Caterpillars

I watched us turn into centipedes,
not butterflies– tiny legs to run
pushed out of us, not wings.
In half-moon light we crawled
the hollow ridges of our bodies.
Someday, we thought. Children.
But it was true: neither of us knew
how to bloom. We kept scratching
at the other’s skin digging
for the beating heart
but only exposed the blood.

 

(originally published in The Quiet Letter, 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)

My Smartphone’s Fingerprint Sensor Cannot Detect Me

Do not forget me:
I have struggled to break
through my own absence
of field. Let a helium balloon
float to where it disappears.
We have not spoken
in years. The phone you gave
me I replaced to return
my sense of self-place. Still,
send me a signal you sense me,
and we will come to static
where we cannot hear
how we wish to be heard
but we will know
we are there.

 

(originally published in CultureCult Magazine, 2017)

Mid-December

The alley is paved with old bricks
blackened by rain. I used to want

conformity, that tidal hope gripping
your gut. You must have a family soon.

Everywhere babies are sprouting
but garden sprinklers are off because winter

is near, crackled dirt longing for storm–
how long since the rough of gale and rain?

Seasons, in these frigid airs. And my seedling
heart stopped growing soon after its first beat.

 

(originally published in The Coachella Review, Winter 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)