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.

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

Fly

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.

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. 

Related Poems

The World That the Shooter Left Us

                                                       (Stand Your Ground)
 
In this one, ladies and gentlemen,
Beware, be clear: the brown man,
 
The able lawyer, the paterfamilias,
Never makes it out of the poem alive:
 
The rash, all-too-daily report,
The out of the blue bullet
 
Blithely shatters our treasured
Legal eagle’s bones and flesh—
 
In the brusque spectacle of point-blank force,
On a crimsoned street,
 
Where a revered immigrant plummets
Over a contested parking spot,
 
And the far-seeing sages insist,
Amid strident maenads
 
Of at-the-ready patrol car sirens,
Clockwork salvos,
 
The charismatic Latino lawyer’s soul
Is banished, elsewhere, without a shred
 
Of eloquence in the matter—
And the brute, churning
 
Surfaces of the world,
They bear our beloved citizen away—
 
Which means, austere saints
And all-seeing masters,
 
If I grasp your bracing challenge:
At our lives’ most brackish hour,
 
Our highest mission isn’t just to bawl,
But to turn the soul-shaking planet
 
Of the desecrated parking lot
(The anti-miracle),
 
The blunt, irascible white man’s
Unnecessary weapon,
 
And the ruse of self-defense
Into justice-cries and ballots?
 
Into newfound pledges and particles of light?

in memory of J. Garza, 1949-2017

Breaking News

As if the lucky might ride it to shore
while the others go under.

Some dogs make for higher ground,
spurred by a shake or a sound
in a frequency to which we never tuned.

Dogs’ ears rise now
to the scream of the still-black screen,
the pitch before the picture.

Breaking here means broken elsewhere.
All our instruments, and still we’re late.

It’s six o’clock. In the windows,
families flicker on,
faces splashed blue in the wake.

 

No, Kanye, it’s not LIKE we’re mentally in prison

            for my grandfather

We don’t have heirlooms. Haven’t owned things long enough. We’re hoarding us
in our stories.                         Like October 26—the Oklahoma Quick
Stop gas at 90¢ and, in 158 more days,

Passion of the Christ in a wildlife
refuge with Rabbits foot and Black
Capped birds—when Edgar Whetstone shoots

himself. Like August 4, 1919. Like Ada Willis births
the boy conceived with Boy gone somewhere. Like her prayers and circa 10
years past and Mr. Charlie saying, Edgar reads (you call that 
       clean?)

but please, girl, coloreds don’t become
doctors. Like Edgar trashed his books.
Like served, discharged. Like funeral

director close to doctor as it got.                  Formaldehyde wrecked him
like Time to get up out the South Detroit inspect dynamics burn
a house down torch the county jail.             Like now, October. Like I found,

searching the internet, one shot
of the asylum’s blurry hall
empty but for an organ’s pipes.

I saw Edgar deluding hymns rousing the two of us in Rock
of Ages followed by Philippians 1:21—to die
is gain. No way to prove the claim, you die in dream, you die for 
       real.

Our family still hanged from trees.
Like if they ever fall, no one
will hear it someday for a while.