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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

3

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. 

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.