Still dark, my baby girl leaps out
the window to greet the rising sun.
I stand below ready to catch her,
but every time she takes off
without fail, her laughter calling
to the orioles, calling
to my shame that had I the choice,
I would have never taught her to fly.

Somewhere there is a man with a gun
who will take pleasure in seeing her
skin against the pure blue sky— 
and shooting her down.
My own mother did not flinch
when I first raised my arms
and lifted my feet off the ground,
above her head.
She only said you better hope
bulletproof skin comes with that
gift. Years later I found out it did.

More by Gary Jackson

Multiple Man: Guest-starring me & you

Every night I sleep on alternate

sides of the bed, as if to duplicate
sleeping with you. If

I'm fast enough, I'm the warmth
of my own body beside me, reach

out and touch myself. Breach
the blue of my bones, breathe in my own ear.

You left me. Lying here,
I left you to be with me.

Someone asks if your body
was worth trading for mine.

My sin was always pride.
Did you want a man that sleeps

with himself to keep
the bed warm? I need you like the earth

needed the flood after dearth

Kansas

It’s love you left, we’ll say
when you never come back
for bells for the dead, for the grave
stone heads: the only ones
that don’t keep count. Don’t
we know it’s love that keeps you
away, that marks every mile
devotion? You would’ve went
to the end with each one,
made Orpheus turn back.
Would’ve fell / would’ve leapt /
would’ve left. The living is easy
/ the leaving is easy / living
with ghosts, it was easy
to give up your home
to your father, struck
with the same grief
of living, demanding
what are you gonna do
with my mama’s house?

Shorn grass & damp dirt:
they’ll put me in the middle.
I kick the ground like tires,
feeling dumb without flowers /
tokens / grief / anything
in my hands. You’ll bring me
back home, won’t you?
Stamp
it down, as if the flat earth
could answer sometimes this,
too, is love. You left. 

The Restoration

We drank coffee and got ready,
listened to 93.3 during our commute

to take our mind off how
every day we die on tv. Every day

down the block, kids in surgical masks
spraypaint Magneto was Right on street signs

and new storefronts waiting to redeem
spa resort passes and avocado toast dreams

until they, too, are forced out of business.
Or not. People can surprise you

like beating cancer or criminal charges,
the 2016 election, the high cost

of middle shelf liquor with a decent view.
If you want to succeed, let them see you

coming, our mothers once said before asking
if we wanted the switch or the belt.

But a whooping beats sitting
at the rooftop bar looking over the steepled skyline

and feeling the pang of worlds we’d rather be,
with two empty seats right beside us

that stay empty for the next two hours
surrounded by people drinking & eating

standing up—the wind threatening
to blow their hats off their sunburned heads.

Somewhere right now
there are two people looking for those seats.

We keep hoping they’ll find them—
find us. Let’s have another drink,

watch the muted news above
a row of decent bourbon,
  
wait to hear, to see
if they make it to us or turn up on tv.

Related Poems

Immortality

I feel like Emily Dickinson did, running her pale finger over each blade of grass, then caressing each root in the depths of the earth's primeval dirt, each tip tickling heaven's soft underbelly. I feel like Emily alone in her room, her hands folded neatly in her lap, waiting forever for one of those two daguerreotypes to embalm her precious soul.
        At my most attuned, the present is a pair of wings stretching forever in all directions, flapping calmly, calmly flapping. But as soon as I notice how happy I am, how close to the sun, there I go plummeting into the background of the same damn painting as ever.
        If I could reach my hand out to you now, would you take it? How do you think it would feel? Warm and soft and certain? Or like Emily's: clammy and brittle as hardened paste? Is that not how you imagine her hands? Look again—they were like that, otherwise she could never, would never, have written those poems.
 

About this poem:
"This poem comes from a series of prose poems about 'big ideas' written during a period when I was having trouble writing. To get the juices flowing again, I thought I'd try starting with titles, with big abstract concepts, and see where they led. They ended up leading to a handful of pieces like this, which will be published in a chapbook from Omnidawn later this year."

Craig Morgan Teicher