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Jacques J. Rancourt


Many things

        I’ve reconsidered:

the snail’s remarkable


        trail, the two slugs

slung around each

        other, organs


exposed & hanging

        from an outdoor

lamp. Because we live


        in the easier century,

today we say our

        wedding vows


& at night, when the heat

        drops, lunar

patterns, dark on dark,


        the cold stars break

like conversation.

        Had we been


born twenty years

        back, we might

be counted among


        the dead. Today I

promise to keep by your

        side, faithful as


night, if you dwindle

        into bedsheets.

In Jerusalem, near


        the Sheep Gate,

an angel of the Lord

        stirred a bathhouse


pool once a day

        which healed

the first submerged


        of whatever

disease he had. Child

        that I was,


I once believed

        faith to be a place

I lived inside myself


        where the prayers

for the sick did not

        become prayers


for the dead. Where

        they all could be

dipped to be cured,



made new. Where

        the pool was cool,


not warm; dark,

        not incandescent;

thrashed & cut through


        like a sash by

the man who stood

        naked in the center.




California is burning & already the woods

where I first learned to love you


have withered, grayed. Last year

when fires rimmed the perimeter


of our city, we followed

in their wake, hiking


the underside of Mt. Diablo

& what was left by then already


blackened to polish, to mythic ash.

At dusk, our phones couldn’t register


our city’s distant lights,

so in the picture we stand smiling


before a black backdrop. A year ago

I barely knew you & now I picture


all the ways I could lose you—

what virions might already be


multiplying in your cells; what truck,

running an intersection, might barrel


over yours; what I might say

if I only had one sentence to say it.


Metaphor will be the first to go.

To walk through the moon’s sea,


I told you on that hike, might look

like this—this burnt mountainside,


this Pompeiian aftermath,

lacquered to veneer. How here


we, like two astronauts, bob.

How here we, like two satans, patrol


the outer ring of hell’s topography.

How I will love you through


prize & peril. Some Scheherazade

I’ve become, some Persephone,


telling you lies, yarn

after yarn, to keep you alive.



Now that we exist

         on the other

side of desire,


         when I tell you

I love you, I mean

         we live


on a planet

         that’s dying

& it’s no accident


         that the calla lily

is both the symbolic

         flower for weddings


& funerals. I told you

         that loons

mated for life


         & when one died

the other spent

         her days calling


out to him across

         the gray pond.

Once again,


         you see,

I was wrong. Look,

         I will be


honest with you:

         when I promised

myself, I did so


         knowing not even

the sun lasts forever.

         Look! The future


is pressing itself

         so closely

against us it has already


         passed us by

& to die must make

         the same sound


as the woman

         I watched during

a rainstorm


         thrashing a river

with a branch.

         Could we make


time pass

         a little more

slowly? I want


         to watch

the fireflies spark

         up the tallgrass


& the bullfrog,

         that unrolls

its wide fat tongue


         a thousand

frames per second,

         thwap the fly


that flickers

         before it

with its honey-thick spit.


-from Brocken Spectre (Alice James Books, 2019), selected by Fall 2022 Guest Editor, Michael Walsh 

Jacques J. Rancourt is the author of two poetry collections, Brocken Spectre (Alice James Books) and Novena (Pleiades Press), as well as a chapbook, In the Time of PrEP (Beloit Poetry Journal). Raised in Maine, he lives in San Francisco with his partner and the world’s most anxious dog.


Victoria Chang


Victoria Chang

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