poems by James Croal Jackson

Umbrella

 

In the lips of thunder, we never feel full

as rain slips from our mouths– the brick

streets are slicked with histories we will

not yet slip. Sediment lodged in the curb

will displace in time. Our tongues slicken

in the dry we create so we thirst for the

wet we tried simply to shield from ourselves.

 

 

 

Office Job (August 18, 2017)

 

The cat purrs, content

on his own, clawing my blanket

that rests peacefully and soft.

 

meanwhile, I entertain fantasies

about quitting my job again–

every day, the drab walls

 

say nothing to me.

the squeaky chair says

too much. Another paycheck

 

arrives, not enough to sustain

me past the day’s bills. I work

for the grim reaper, ghastly

 

and gray, worm-smile rotting.

There is a scythe to my head

when I sleep that I set the night

 

before but I can’t even sleep

long enough to meet it.

The cockroaches share my bed,

 

and I know they will make it

out of this alive, whether

nuclear war or work.

 

 

 

Tallboy

 

I exhale

into chasm

of beer can

bottomless

lung

aluminum

as I am

 

 

 

Checking the Mail

 

it’s a series of bills all this money money money

allegedly turning void in wallet into all this good

shield or beating heart or net but I’m getting your

gray hairs you pick in the mirror how they seem

to crawl from the bathroom floor & appear as the

plague on my head O corporation & government

gavel held to my sensitive nodes I sniff envelopes

which smell of corpses that may all be my own

 

 

 

How to Be Proud

 

As I waited for my burger at Northstar

I saw they had copies of The Bitter Oleander,

and on the first page was the work

of my first poetry professor.

 

Buzzing on metaphor,

I sent an email to tell her

that they’ve also published me before

but it has been a couple of years.

 

She told me

to sleep it off.

 

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