By: James Croal Jackson
I sit alone in this two-seat row
and the cabin lights are off.
I cannot locate the clouds beneath
the wing’s intermittent flashing–
my only light its metronome.
It’s my fault I don’t know Spanish
and understood so little
since arriving in Mexico City.
The only people I’ve spoken to
are retired professors
who told me about living
in Ecuador in the early eighties,
how they once witnessed
an eruption ten miles away–
tufts of smoke billowed out
every five minutes. At dusk they saw
lava seep from one side of the mountain,
but on the other side, a village untouched.
They asked, would you live
in such a village? Not knowing
which gate my next plane
will be departing from, a knife
inside me threatens the throat
of an ancient mountain, ready to erupt.
No matter where I go, I am surrounded
by strangers. Even here, no one talks, just
the omnipresent drone of the engine.
Out of nowhere, the moon a sliver of blood
disappears into air. First fingernail, then
speck, and nothing. So when the plane
descends, my world dark and missing
Sara, who would have been beside me,
I do not know to what depths I will sink.
you’d think we’d strain out all meaning
in this repetitive fiction of light & scrawl
like cave rock hieroglyphs in shared
language this symbolism will waste
through history you ask what are you
trying to accomplish there must be
merit in longevity a bottlecap
adrift in the ocean for generations
& I caved to a longing that glistens
aluminum in the sun shimmering
waves of brightness folded
tucked into a cardboard box
I walk on redwoods,
cutting into forest.
Outside the trees
I find endless fog–
the ocean, splintered wood.
The railroad has no destination here.
After the Polar Vortex
Sixteen degrees sounds like spring, so I go for a walk.
I haven’t left the house in days– restless heart, I needed
scenery until I step into unshoveled snow. I sigh and scrape
the spade against the sidewalk to clear the path for travelers.
A woman rolls a spare tire along the street and, seeing snow
stick to rubber, I decide my walk must end in beer. I follow
her in the direction of the store and buy a six-pack of Truth
and head back home, where my partner asks where I went–
I don’t mean to keep things from her. I just say I needed
to clear my head, and that it’s drinking season. She says
I thought sunshine was drinking season, and that’s true,
too– I can’t go outside without wanting to drink, whether
flurry or thunder. Whichever road I walk leads to wanting.
I talk about the moon
as if it’s cute but IT’S NOT
cuter than anything
sometimes I think I’m
cuter than the moon but
James Croal Jackson (he/him) is a Filipino-American poet. He has a chapbook, The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017), and recent poems in DASH, The Headlight Review, and Jam & Sand. He edits The Mantle Poetry (themantlepoetry.com). Currently, he works in film production in Pittsburgh, PA..