5-27-2020

Marcus Jackson

 

Ode To The Hater

 

Your name on our caller ID

leers like a traffic ticket on a windshield.

 

Your rumors are determined as termites,

your tongue jumpy like a jarred roach.

 

The births of healthy, gleaming babies

twist you ill.  June is your

 

November, miracles your disasters;

Obama’s election hospitalized you.

 

Your eyes drip pleasure-tears

when a wrecking ball strikes a school. 

 

Kind minds have labored centuries

to guess reasons for your presence,

 

to invent figurative scissors

and clip the knotted cloth

 

blindfolding you from typical bliss.

In minutes, dawn will reacquire

 

the sky.  We’re tired.  Besides,

even if a bundle of money appeared

 

unmarked in your living room,

you’d curse the sorry world

 

for creating paper crisp

enough to cut your counting thumb.

 

Ode To The Bully

 

Your knuckles are rows of rocks

wrapped in dim skin.

Our collars crumple

in your indisputable grip.

Your footsteps unstem

elm leaves; your voice is

sledge-head against iron spike.

With our soda change and bus tolls

your pocket clamors

like the sea farer’s purse.

You terrify our teachers,

your curse-laced refusals

rip their ears as if butcher paper.

Your mama some nights

doesn’t come home

after tavern-waitress shifts;

she shuffles men

whose mouths know one motion

for winces and grins.

Your fridge is a bookshelf

after a literature burning;

your toilet and tub

are swampy, your room

drafty as a half-built boat.

Bully, we wish to be you,

to wake and flex our necks

loose of sleep’s kinks,

to pull on cold clothes,

to trudge the street as sunlight

knifes the early sky,

to huff the neighborhood’s nitrogen

and know about carrying out

the thorny vow, obeyed

from a basic age, to regulate

pain’s imperative flames.

 

Ode To Last Call

 

Shouted by the bartender

in a bill collector’s baritone,

even the jukebox yields to you.

 

Our bottles and glasses grow 

vacant as maxed-out mines.

 

Before you, we barked for hours

in varnished tongues, we bet

outcomes of pool table duels,

we laughed like rattling wagons,

we pissed in ceaseless shifts,

urinals centered with soap disks,

we chomped peanuts from plastic baskets

as steady snow turned the windows

to slowly unrolling scrolls.

 

Your lights flood our eyes,

push-broom us outside,

the night air a bitten plum.

 

Our cars wear cotton coats

we brush the windshields naked of.

 

Last Call, without you, how much

longer could we have eluded

our homes, people we trouble

and love, thoughts that luster

and rust, a world that swivels

tireless, as if its spin

won’t ever encounter

the wall of the word Stop.

-from Neighborhood Register, CavanKerry Press (September 13, 2011)

MARCUS JACKSON is the author of Pardon My Heart (TriQuarterly Books) and Neighborhood Register (CavanKerry Press, 2011). He teaches in the MFA program at Ohio State University and lives in Columbus, Ohio.