Letting the Emptiness Become My Government

Within me, the sipped, iced bourbon enacts
the sense of a slow, April rain
blurring and nurturing a landscape.
Decades I’ve been pipe-dreaming of finding
a life as concise as a wartime telegram.
Ultimately, I’ve ended up compiling
an archive of miscommunication
and the faded receipts of secondary disgraces.
In third grade, a friend’s uncle stole the two dollars
from my pocket as I slept on their couch,
and later he must’ve hurried into the night
toward a flat in the nearby building
where a newly minted narcotic promised
to evict the misgivings from all riled souls.
I told no one of the theft, letting the emptiness
become my government, my friend’s
mother counting her food stamps while we walked
the late-morning blocks to a bustling grocery,
within which she eventually smacked
the hopeful face of my friend as he reached
again for too costly a thing.

More by Marcus Jackson

Evasive Me

Of course there’s a certificate, bleeding
carbon at the creases and impressions,

detailing my metrics and lineage the night
I entered the earthly air in a new hospital

built by the intricate partnership between
Rust Belt governance, capitalism

and Christ, though I lie to people I like,
saying I was born in a garden so near

the sea that my mother—multilingual
and remarkably tall—rinsed me at the fringe

of the tide the morning after labor,
the horizon cloudless and birdless

while the sand whispered spells of protection,
depth, and solemnity upon the pair of us,

and amid this farce my dear listeners
don expressions of distrust or ire

as likely they should, faced with evasive
me, so wearied even before boyhood

by the truth that I’ve forever disallowed
my ears and my mouth any songs not made

from the water, dirt, wind, salt, and fire
of American manipulation.

40 Ounce

Summer has salted
our neighborhood to thirst;
tar that patches the wounds of roofs
heats to sluggish bubbles;
sun obligates
paint on car hoods to blotch.

Emphasized by the light
inside corner-store beer coolers,
your malt lusters.

You’re cold gold down throat.

Lush like storm-brim wind.

Foam-skinned as any cleansing.

Within thick glass, you swish oceanic
as we share you palm to palm.

You have helped
this dice game clank alive,
paper-wager and victory-rake,
players with obsidian eyes.

Through an uncurtained pane,
a music video is visible;
women’s shimmer slurs
like jewelry worn on a passerby.

Neighbors here and there snore,
hallway walls tacked
with flea-market art, closets
dehydrated by moth repellent.
They leave us to you.
They could plead tomorrow
in churches whose pipes
ramble behind brittle plaster.

We drink you to the pale bottom,
we drink until night sinks
into skin like silk,
until graveyard cops
circle our block like a clock arm,
until blood slides
like alloy through veins,
until words hammer
from the anvil of the brain,
until America’s
continental wheel unbolts
and everybody can see
we gleam like greased bearings.

Ode to Kool-Aid

You turn the kitchen
tap’s metallic stream
into tropical drink,
extra sugar whirlpooling
to the pitcher-bottom
like gypsum sand.
Purplesaurus Rex, Roarin’
Rock-A-Dile Red, Ice Blue
Island Twist, Sharkleberry Fin;
on our tongues, each version
keeps a section, like tiles
on the elemental table.
In ninth grade, Sandra
employed a jug of Black Cherry
to dye her straightened
bangs burgundy.
When toddlers swallow you,
their top lips mustache in color
as if they’ve kissed paint.
The trendy folks can savor
all that imported mango nectar
and health-market juice.
We need factory-crafted packets,
unpronounceable ingredients,
a logo cute enough to hug,
a drink unnaturally sweet
so that, on the porch,
as summer sun recedes,
Granddad takes out his teeth
to make more mouth to admit you.

Related Poems

Robber Sentenced to Reflection

We bank sneaks do it for the back-
jumping buzz and for the poetry
of course, iamb after iamb of ka-
klink in our birdcage coffers.
The beard-jammer (that shitty
shirtrabbit) dropped from the eaves
after a whole lot of listening and squashed
my swagger in seconds. So here I am
on yonder Ponder Island, forced to
forgo the fizz powder that used to give me
the good go-ahead, count my every blink
and contemplate. It’s always claws
for breakfast, then around eye-flicker
five thousand he comes in to cat-cuff
me, to drone on about the bone orchard
or the Burlap Sisters (buzz-nappers all three)
who never went free. They didn’t do
dialogue. They were islands of their own.
Each midnight (thrice daily) I scan
the skies for wormholes, which I know
is flimsy whimsy, as if I’ll swoon through
space into a dimension where
there are cackle-tubs full of jokes
and tenth chances. Still, I keep
the old big-eye open. When I can
I prowl the caper-cove hooting help!
My sentence: twelve years of mirror
manufacture. Not even one lousy weak-
ankled gerund. There’s no magic in mirrors
but in verbs, hey-brim- ho yes. I narrate
my movements to myself with as many
as possible—I grind, polish, whistle,
wish, but I worry I’m losing the lingo.
I never look at my show-me in the glass—
it fazzles me. Instead I count what I’ve sent
down the wormholes in the past:
one year of daily weather diagrams
and owl-falls, an exquisite equation for
unlocking a safe. I think there are
other worlds out there and perhaps
in a quicksquint I’ll catch a glimpse of
my double (Little-Go- Cheat or Lizzy-Loll-
Tongue I call her). Worst: We’re handcuff-
Married. Best: Thanks to me her nimbles
unlatch a door and cull-money silvers
into her lap. She imagines my sky.
Sends me hers.