Five Poems by James Croal Jackson

FRANKLIN AVENUE IN 2015

Two years ago, we would drink tall beers
hidden in black, plastic bags ’til we passed
from laughter, fluttered to fill
our glasses with more.

There would have been more pages
to turn, but none of us spoke our
human language anymore.

Now, a browned frond slumps
between parked cars.

Two teenagers flirt
underneath a palm. Whispered leaves
are fragile– each movement
a link to the next
until it is not.

Their laughs reverberate
when they, too, part. Uncork
those swan bottles–
let them go, graceful
into night.

NOMADS

I know you want to leave, to take a bus
out of Columbus, to fight your battle
in Seattle, or Denver, or wherever
your heart may lead–

to be a nomad is to go
where the landscape dreams,
and to scrunch it all in your hand
like wisps of dandelion in the wind,

and in your palm its feathery white
is dissolution–

however far you go, know those you meet
will occupy the room in the tiny hostel
of your heart, sharing wisdom and laughter
despite however many days we spend apart.


TEETH, EGGS, AND THE CITY LIMITS (OR: TINDER)

our short harmony brushes my teeth
flosses the ridges bending eating
at me the yellowy plaque on white

the yolks in morning how inside
we are tender sunny side up I love
the way you look at me those

runny eyes gushing off the pan
onto black-and-white tile floor
grids the burgeoning cities

in our minds cars read
the streetlights’ caution
as go, go, go . . 

1ST & DELAWARE

wandered along the avenue to find Kurt
sitting at the mountain of a three-step staircase
don’t come up here he laughed
but the neighborhood spun faster
than the blue room I escaped
so I continued to High along the alleys
of wafting leaked gasoline and nectars
of dried roses this was not spring
but the cold allowed me briskly hack time
in a direction indicating forward
where I pleat the confines of the sidewalk’s
imaginary boundaries I drifted from
but felt motionless and free

OBSERVATIONS FROM THE WESTSIDE PAVILION BRIDGE

I.

stationary at the couch by the window over the street the cars move unseen beneath me in lines in some complex order that means they don’t crash into each other    the sound of engines is replaced with repetitive 4/4 pop music snare singer pleading for her lover to return but in Los Angeles   who do you return to

II.

locks click from storefront doors a Chinese family appears from behind the off-white pillar the mother in loose pink flowy shirt and dress takes a photo in front of the window her daughter in a white-and-red striped shirt her husband in a blue-and-pink striped shirt so much pink so many binding stripes and the mother captures that lone moment  the sky a tender backdrop

III.

a grandma walks a black stroller and makes a soft kind of train noise shh guh shh guh in syncopated beats as she travels in circles the rolling sound of the stroller-like luggage in an airport    constant whir her mouth a muted hi-hat to some imaginary beat on her third pass-by the baby in pink stirs and she stops her mouth’s percussion and tends to the baby who is absolutely quiet but lifts her arm in the air   silhouette to the window of the world cookies-and-cream    loose leggings

IV.

a man in his fifties eats macha ice cream alone near Dillard’s   walks in front of a blonde man in a cowboy hat water bottle in hand hair tying his shoelaces      the ice cream man on the other side of the window underneath the Westside Center sign stares at his reflection     he moves from the window bits of cone now lodged in his graying mustache

V.

the green palms reflected on the speckled cream floor    ripples in a pond that blew so gently     outside a man with twenty hands and countless fingers     dances and puppeteers

VI.

two Mexican women with glowing purses hanging on their right shoulder walk in near-unison one just a half-step ahead until the fast one stops to fix her shoe before walking into Nordstrom glass door squealing open       at its most open it sounds like a bad brake on a car      the other keeps walking

VII.

older man in a reddish shirt has a chocolate cone at 11:45pm and stands on the wide black stripe on the floor in front of the imposing silver pillar that splits in the middle like a buttcrack     he stands    licking staring forward at TVs     that advertise movies now playing in the theaters of his daydreams

VIII.

half of the iPhone billboard outside would be indiscernible    half white space stubs of fingers touching green fabric in a lazy V the space below it a half-globe of nothing   the squeaking of shoes slowly silence the man in blue beneath as he does not even notice I watch as he tucks his manila folder under his left armpit

IX.

mountains are indiscernible from buildings in the distance     curved with specks of white that hint at strange windows or a deepening mist that seem to want to envelop the rest of us    and how do we know it won’t

X.

a faraway pedestrian timidly crosses the intersection illegally   she slows but proceeds   and from my vantage point she crosses to the smell of the soy in the pad see ew that steams in front of me

XI.

the light which hangs above these walls of shades of gray is latticed in spiderweb    I cannot tell if the gentle sway-shaking is imaginary  or earthquake  all these little triangles hovering jittering above me   I wonder if this is how the universe actually moves   or what it truly looks like

XII.

upside-down reflections of walking legs move as the inverse of walking and sway with a sexy air voluminous breeze parting    moving away in a regal but ultimately    aimless sashay

James Jackson

James Croal Jackson is a writer, musician, and occasional filmmaker whose work in film and TV in Los Angeles led to a rediscovery of his love of poetry. His poems have appeared in magazines including The Bitter Oleander, Lines+Stars, and Cosmonauts Avenue. He is the winner of the 2016 William Redding Memorial Poetry Prize via The Poetry Forum. He lives in Columbus, Ohio. Visit him at jimjakk.com.

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