Jackson, Gary AllenWebsite
Born and raised in Topeka, Kansas, Gary Jackson is the author of the poetry collection Missing You, Metropolis, which received the 2009 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in Callaloo, Tin House, 32 Poems, Crab Orchard Review, and elsewhere. He is the recipient of both a Cave Canem and Bread Loaf fellowship, and an associate poetry editor at Crazyhorse. He currently teaches as an Assistant Professor at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC.
Nightcrawler Buys a Woman a Drink
You’re staring, jaw-dropped at my tail. And yes,
it’s a good twenty inches long and moves
like a serpent in heat. Touch it. I’m no devil, honey,
I don’t got no souls, just the smoothest, bluest fur
you’ve ever seen. Don’t mind my buddy here, he looks angry
all the time, and he’s got eyes for the bottle of Jameson
and the short-haired blonde playing pool near the gorillas.
What do we do? Over a few drinks I could tell you about the time
we traveled to the blue side of the moon or when we fought
the Juggernaut right here in this bar. Yeah, the fangs are real.
Rub your finger over them, touch the deviled tongue.
Caress my fur with your skin, let me keep your body warm
in the dark. It’s your night, honey. Show me a woman not afraid
of a mutant man. Let me mix into your bloodline.
We prop the body up
but it blocks the sky.
If we lay it down, we’d have
to uproot too many trees,
and we cannot leave him
in the sun, in the dark. There is a hole
through his chest – the light
finds a way to bend
through him. We could bury
the body, but who can afford
to buy enough plots,
and how many plots will it take?
Eighty? Two hundred?
Who will dig the graves? Who
will call the men & machines
to chew enough earth?
Enough with the body, please
give him a name.
But we already have
a Goliath: the one who steps
over buildings, cups men
& women in the prison
of his palms.
– Black Goliath?
Yes. Ok. We
could disassemble Black
Goliath, cut him to pieces,
blow him to atoms.
We could use rope
or chains to drag him
to the river, or wrench
him apart with steel.
Rope would not hold him.
He would leave grooves too deep
to drag. And no one wants
a body raining from the sky.
Then we leave him
to lie in the sun.
There will still be bones.
But bones we can use.
Bones we can unearth
and polish years from now –
build a playground
for children, let them swing freely
from his ivory ribs.
Elegy that was already done before
I’m trying to teach these kids about elegy when one of them asks how do you grieve? Everyone answers: crying, screaming in the crook of your elbow, trying to muffle your soul when all you doing is making it harder for the dead to hear what you have to say. Only one student says drink. I put one toe in and ask what? He says Jack Daniels b/c I don’t have to think and now I’m thinking about ghosts again. Last month I talked to your mother on the phone. My mother wanted to show her my book but ain’t that like rubbing it in someone’s face that one of us is gone and the other got famous for it? Yet here we are – you still dead, and I’m a fool to think the last poem was the last one I’d write about you. At parties, people who don’t know that too much ash sours the soil ask about you. I bury two fingers in my temple – one fingernail buried under skin, the other not far behind. Everything is about loss. About stories, about superheroes, about trying to show these motherfucking students what an elegy is really about. It’s about the student who asked who’s your favorite superhero? and I said Spider-Man when I should have said you.
Missing You, Metropolis (Graywolf Press, 2010)
Winner of the 2009 Cave Canem Poetry Prize
Margaret Bridgman Fellowship in Poetry at Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, 2012
One of 2013’s “New American Poets.” Poetry Society of America.