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Marcus Jackson

Marcus Jackson is the author of Pardon My Heart, forthcoming in 2018 from TriQuarterly Books, and Neighborhood Register (CavanKerry Press, 2011). He teaches in the MFA program at Ohio State University and lives in Columbus, Ohio.

By This Poet

4

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.