Jack Poems

1987

 

But I feel nothing for their game/where beauty goes unrecognized

óBob Dylan

 

 

 

girl gets bitten

 

I get up still bitter. Mean world I'm in. Jack, my imaginary husband, rolls over and grins. Cold last night? Well, yes. To tell the truth is funny in this house.

 

I see garden snakes. Thousands waiting for breakfast. Right away it's truth or conse≠quences. Damn beauty of irony. Green, black, they're blue and spotted. The whole lawn is covered with these tubes of what some call evil.

 

I got out and get bitten. Of course. My neigh≠bor comes. I explain the situation. I'm dying ≠asshole. What about your husband, Jack? He's sleepingówon't wake up. Meanwhile the heart I call mine is racing like a car driven by a ten-year-old. Real fast.

 

Don't move the cops say. One moves his lips near my bite, though. Feels good, I guess. Can see my dead mother coming to life. Why oh why did you take so long. Cop sucks out all the poison. Or so he thinks. How's that feel? Better.

 

I'm still lying on the ground, though. Jack is yawning, waking up. Wondering where his pancakes are. There's 34 ambulances in our drive. They came in a silent rush. So as not to scare me. Not to get the adrenaline running. They don't want me to panic. Funny thing about 34 ambulances, though. Jack is 34 today. And there's no cake I know of baked.

 

My neighbor finally drags me into his house. Oh, God, his house. I hate it here. Grandfa≠ther clock. Couch that hurts. Counter I lie on where he stores the knives. His wife is making pleasant talk. My head near the sink where she skins the apples. Can I go home? But the radio is on. They're listening to the morning news. A girl got bit. How do you like that?

 

I get him and the prophets and the kings confused. Do wild cats still fight in the alleys? We took the most twisted roads on our journey. It was a vacation to never forget.

 

 

 

 

talking through jack

Could he be dead? I imagine a dark forest where I'll bury him. A huge bird falling off a crazy tree. Looking down on his splattered jungle. I'll dig a hole. I'll drag him throughÖ

But no. He's up. Reaching over to the night table for...

 

Down into my throat goes an entire bottle of Scotch that cost only $2.99. Jack bought it. He eased all the coins out from his small pockets. Here, baby. We looked at the sun somehow pasted above the gas stationís sign. A couple of big men leaned into the window. Our window. And said: Your tires need pumping.

 

Thereís a look of something or other on his face., I canít figure it out. Do you want to kiss? I ask him about his days as a solider. I was under, he says. A big submarine. Where the other guys ate jello and minded their own business. Me, at the time, I was folding up all thoughts of happiness on earth. Became a Christian and was forgiven. A cop comes by and kicks the tires. The car is dead. We are meekly brought to jail. Jack caves in. From another cell I hear my husband sighing. I look into what I imagine is rain: the captainís face. Get us out of here and Iíll pay you a hundred dollars.

 

But they donít. Jack dies on the top bunk. Thatís the story they gave me. Died with a smile on his face, maíam. Iím led into the patrol car. Canít we do anything on our own, anymore? Lines of poetry clogging my lips. Thoughts so thick Iím afraid theyíll interfere with swallowing. Were you two married? Not really.

 

Back home I carefully bury the bottle. A drop left but Iím not thirsty. Itís jackís fault. All this. Thunder laughing out there. Smoky distance. I point my finger at the damn clouds. Youíll regret this. I say all the prayers I know. And fold my fingers. Sharp nails cutting through the hand I call my own.

 

For one thing I will no longer believe in anything that cannot be heard unless directly whispered into the ear.

 

 

dna

 

Jack looks at me like I was the stunning goddess of all beauty. He must notice tears in my eyes because he shuts them with his own fingers.

 

I was sort of walking up a hill. I saw all the figures of historyóthe saintly ones, that is. They were walking up the hill, too. Whatís this? I thought heaven would be all downhill. O my God, Iíve got to sit down and think about this. You guys sweating. Thatís not fair. When you lived you shorn your hair, you poked arrows through your eyes, you were burned by the ones who called themselves holy. Before I can finish my tale, Jack says: shut up because thatís not funny. He leans over with his head freshly wounded and the bandage touches a scar I happen to have. No blood mingles, though: the scar is old. Count my fingers. You still got five left, all right. He blinks the one eye still working. Touch my head. Itís warm. I got a fever? No, youíre alive. Youíre working.

 

If Jack was all plastic, I could look inside and never have to guess. In his brain would be words clearly scrawled. Big words with big meanings. Iíd see his heart tick-tock or not. The blood rushing to get to the most important place: my fingertips. Iíd knock on his chest and ask for entrance. Like a robot heíd grin: Itís open.

 

If I was all plastic, Jack would faint, With pleasure. With despair, with fear. Heíd trust me. All the godly notions reduced to a human organism. Reduced to crazy cells bursting into one another. Heíd see my liver bubbling. The genes running up and down the corridors of blood and guts. Hurrying with messages. Heís read those messages. DNA? Easier than that. Tiny messages. Lonely messages. Sentences with the smallest words. Heíd see the gentle mess of chemistry and finally sigh that sigh he needs. Heís safe. Iím humanóprey to all his wild thoughts.

 

He was proud to be one of the imaginary crucified. Bleeding palms scrawled on papers thrown around his room. Words so turned into poems. Verse that wrecks a manís life. Like broken limbs unattended to. Sticking straight out from the horror of everyday life.

 

 

 

 

 

On my neighborís chair and elsewhere

 

I donít want to be here. It hurts like hell. To be sitting on my neighborís chair. I have nothing on. Sheís bringing up memories of her husbandís university days. Sheís cutting cucumbers. The wall with al the knives rattles. Iím going to be sick.

 

I try to get out. Sit down, she says. We go over the books of photographs. Here she is before she was married. A thin girl with glasses sitting on giant steps. Not her fatherís house. Next to her legs: a red pocketbook. I get up and go into the kitchen. Wonít these knives fall if this keeps up?

 

Her husband is chopping wood. In one of the pictures. I eat a cucumber. She pats my shoulders. Is this erotic? Hell, no. But she lends me her sweater. Iím so cold. I canít get over how cold I am. Iím freezing. My lips are blue. Too bad your eyes arenít, she says. My husband has a thing for blue eyes.

 

My husband Jack is home sleeping. I send him tiny thoughts but nothing helps. Heís been sleeping for days. I try to get him up for breakfast but nothing happens. Pancakes? I ask him. His hand is so limp it flops over and hits the book he was reading: The Idiot. I think heís in a coma.

 

Now the kitchen is on fire. When will tragedy stop. Iíve called the fire department and can only wait calmly now. Weíll be right there, maíam, said the fire chief. But that was an hour ago. The house is black and burnt as toast. I figure Jackís really dead now. And the book I was reading? Probably burnt to pieces. Damn book on Japanese philosophy. I hear engines. Birds squawking. Neighbors running. Trucks stopping. I smell smoke. I see lights. Stars. Iím falling over onto our best rug. Persian princes smile at me. Iíve fainted.

 

Some really small sensation of something starting. Maybe on the other side of the world, maybe three million years ago. They walked together hand in handóor so the scientists say. Along the edge of a river are only fingerprints left. Lovers or savages? There is no bonding of a violent nature: only something that happened before there were words. A man then had nothing to do but gaze. Blue, pink, whiteÖThere was no ravaging of the mind to pinpoint the meaning.

 

 

 

 

 

Table

Do you believe that I canÖThereís no words for it. Letís uh pop open. I got a knife that has a corkscrew. Why donít you reach into the back and grab that bottle.

 

Iím just kidding about drinking. Only in my mind do I. Huge bottles of bourbon. Iím a drunk but Iíve had nothing to drink. Water. I want to lap at a stream. But that would get old, too.

 

A green bottle of gin. Jack comes over with it. His suspenders are down. I notice his buttons need mending. Where you been so long? We screw off the top. I got this dress on thatís making me feel hot but all I do is unravel the straps. Jack sits up straight. The sun goes down.

 

How do you like those damn neighbors of yours he says. Putting up a fence. Gin spills on the Indian rug. A deerís gentle face is splattered but you can see the stain wonít be bad. A fence? Thatís all right with me. Iím going to run through the jungle I have in back once theyíve built it. Naked. Iím going to run naked. We move on Jameson.

 

The sun appears again. Jackís sleeping with a copy of the Bible stifling his snores. I reach into my pocket and find the corkscrew. Itís my favorite device. How the hell can I be so sober?

 

Next thing: my nose buried in the Indian rug. Head next to the legs of a table. Hand so gently clutching it. What a relief. With sturdy things like that around I know I wonít go under.

 

Iím in love with the image of telling half-truths to people who lie. There is a certain stink of alcohol. Wine brought from the half-price shelf. Tell it to the world from a sliver of light in an attic room. Here in these twelve feet.

 

 

saint jack

Saint Jack, you thing to touch. How you stand by the sea without hat look. Over and over I repeat to myself: can dost? Hear my words in a bottomless ear. The sea is cast under the birds like a net. Safety, my brother, my own Saint Jack. It gleams and rolls and traps and opens wide its lips. Sea of tongues! The fish who swim with muddled heads. Confusion did not sink to the bottom. Water that bloats the paths of eagles. See straight. Over that mass can some frail bones pop. Feeble like the damn things underneath. Almost think itís a mirror. O be smarter than that! Saint who walks his very own shadow. Up and above the gifted lake. Fishermen plead for the biggest battle to be finally over. That fish will walk without a hope into their dull nets and than drowning with all their force bow down to the damn gluttony of men. I think that will not ever happen. Jack so sad. Jack in the garden. Can dost... Marriage of sorts. Jack who never came back. You are really swimming. Jack who counts to ten. Jack who whispers things so hard. To greatness! So great you are.

 

 

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