Poets

Search more than 3,000 biographies of contemporary and classic poets.

Gary Jackson

Gary Jackson is the author of Missing You, Metropolis (Graywolf Press, 2010), which was selected by Yusef Komunyakaa as winner of the 2009 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. He teaches in the MFA program at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina.

By This Poet

4

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.

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.