We Are Soldiers in the Army of the Lord
The old gods are falling. So are we all.
Citizen, they will not tell you that falling
can be forward motion, or that freedom is less
being broken than will to rise. Go, my dark sweet girl.
Praise our fresh dead. Raise them up—
Call each by rightful name.
Have they called you animal, Citizen?
You are bone and spirit too.
Rise, girl, for we are soldiers.
This earth is littered with our fallen.
Weep not. The ground shifts
with the ghosts of the fallen. Rise.
Theodore Bilbo & I Consider the End of Days
The world we knew has fallen,
its head lolling like the dying
sunflowers of the field—
it retires after its long day &
leaves Teddy & me alone
& drunk on the veranda.
We’ll drink all night,
& no one will care
where we have gone.
Under the stars & fireflies
we’ll twine our limbs
until all their light blurs into
one great weight upon us
& we'll finally untwine from
this patch of earth. He'll be
just drunk enough to apologize,
say: There was the war.
Remember? We lost & I’ll say:
There was war, & a war, then
another & another & the wind will pool
in the swelling distance between us
& he’ll grope for a word
suspended in the dark. Abandon.
I’ll say. I abandoned you.
It could neither go on nor last.
We’ll embrace—my arms around
his back and I’ll feel something
like his heart knocking
against my opened hand &
I can’t say that I won't love him
then as now, nor that I haven’t
loved him like I love myself.
I couldn’t stay, Teddy, I’ll say.
I had to live & he’ll watch the hills
& the cotton will pace the distance &
he’ll take in the still air &
he won't look me in the eye after that.
We will grieve. Our grief will blot
the light left in the surrounding night &
the wisteria blooms will roll like
the many eyes of our dead.
We will grieve. We will be done with it.
At the Repast
When we gathered at the house, while the men all looked at their shoes and the women whispered, baby, baby, baby, she sat down with a fist full of paper napkins and folded them into birds. When she filled her hands, she crossed the room to the hearth and threw a bird into the flames, then another, then another until she had destroyed all she created. Years later when I asked her what she meant, she couldn’t remember. The worst has already happened to us, she said. What good is metaphor now?
BIO: TJ Jarrett is a writer and software developer in Nashville, Tennessee. Her recent work has been published or is forthcoming in Poetry, African American Review, Boston Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Callaloo, DIAGRAM, Third Coast, VQR, West Branch and others.
She has earned scholarships from Colrain Manuscript Conference and Vermont Studio Center; fellowships from Sewanee Writer’s Conference 2014 and the Summer Literary Seminars 2012 and 2014; winner of VQR’s Emily Clark Balch Prize for Poetry 2014; a runner up for the 2012 Marsh Hawk Poetry Prize and 2012 New Issues Poetry Prize; and her collection The Moon Looks Down and Laughs was selected as a finalist for the 2010 Tampa Review Prize for Poetry.
Her debut collection Ain’t No Grave (finalist for the 2013 Balcones Prize) was published with New Issues Press (2013).
Her second collection Zion (winner of the Crab Orchard Open Competition 2013) was published by Southern Illinois University Press in the fall of 2014.