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Gary Jackson

Years: 2012


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.


– Goliath.


But we already have

a Goliath: the one who steps


over buildings, cups men

& women in the prison


of his palms.

Choose another.


– 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.