We are pleased to announce that our first issue is on the way!
Below are a sampling of poems Jacar Press published in our last two anthologies.
Eventually the future shows up everywhere:
burly summers and unslept nights in deep
lines and dark splotches, thinning skin.
Here’s the corner store grown to a condo,
the bike reduced to one spinning wheel,
the ghost of a dog that used to be, her trail
no longer trodden, just a dip in the weeds.
The clear water we drank as thirsty children
still runs through our veins. Stars we saw then
we still see now, only fewer, dimmer, less often.
The old tunes play and continue to move us
in spite of our learning, the wraith of romance,
lost innocence, literature, the death of the poets.
We continue to speak, if only in whispers,
to something inside us that longs to be named.
We name it in the past and drag it behind us,
bag like a lung filled with shadow and song,
dreams of running, the keys to lost names
The end of the road is a beautiful mirage:
White jeeps with mottos, white
And blue tarps where the dust gnaws
At your nostrils like a locust cloud
Or a helicopter thrashing the earth,
Wheat grains peppering the sky.
Let me tell you a fable:
Why the road is lunar
Goes back to the days when strangers
Sealed a bid from the despot to build
The only path that courses through
The desert of the people.
The tyrant secretly sent
His men to mix hand grenades
With asphalt and gravel,
Then hid the button
That would detonate the road.
These are villages and these are trees
A thousand years old,
Or the souls of trees,
Their higher branches axed and dangled
Like lynched men flanking the wadis,
Closer now to a camel’s neck
And paradoxical chew.
And the villages:
Children packed in a hut
Then burned or hung on bayonets
Anchoring acacia limbs as checkpoints.
And only animals return:
The monkeys dash to the road’s edge and back
Into the alleyways.
And by a doorstep a hawk dives
And snatches a serpent—your eyes
Twitch in saccades and staccatos:
This blue-crested hoopoe is whizzing ahead of us
From bough to bough,
The hummingbird wings
Like fighter jets
Refueling in midair.
If you believe the hoopoe
Is good omen,
The driver says,
Then you are one of us.
I understand God’s reasons for keeping
Satan to himself, the only rabbit caught
on a tiring eternal hunt. Who wouldn’t want
to go a few rounds with the devil that made
one of us paint a mustache on the Virgin,
increasing the likelihood that she stay one?
Imagine having to be famous for what she never had.
She can’t go a few rounds with him anyway,
being unable to afford losing all she’s got,
that cat’s eye virginity that has to undergo
nine immaculate lifetimes inside her other than
organs. We’d tear him apart if God let us.
I can’t forget that God’s a man, subjects us to
the quirks of maleness, among them that need
for adversary, for worthy opponent, for just short
of equal. And that’s Satan, the runner-up, the
one who almost had it all, a do-nothing second in command.
The smell of victory roses muses his protest. The consolation
of smelling them too he takes home.
Think of it, his authority denied him by a nose, a
longer, pointier Caucasian nose. And Satan is there
for God no matter what, the original Uncle Tom.
To be the winner, God needs a run for the money, a sprinter
in his next lane with the potential to grab the god yet
who defers, won’t cross the line without more information
about the other side, without a taster, a patsy
for the poison
Perpetua Holdings Inc.
I wanted to stop writing about the South,
but then the mother possum and her babies skittered
out of the casket lined with shredded satin, its glass lid heavy
and still unbroken—Emmett’s first casket left rotting
in a shed by some gravediggers and their office manager
who’d pocketed the funds donated for its preservation.
(Mamie Till in her final days planned a grand mausoleum
for Emmett’s body, exhumed in 1995 for further study,
maybe a DNA lead, then reburied in a fresh pine casket.)
When will they let his body rest, his cousin asked
as the detective’s crane lifted the heavy evidence
onto a flat bed truck. And it all comes back—
the black and white photographs of his face
seen against the pleated waves of satin, 1963.
His mother wanted the world to see
what had been done to her son—beaten,
the body drowned. There was no way I could describe
what was in that box, she said.
During this investigation, it was also discovered
that the employees of Burr Oak Cemetery
in suburban Chicago were reselling caskets,
recycling burial plots, two groundskeepers digging up
and discarding lots of unhistoric grief, too—
stacks of skulls and tiny skeletons
from the Babyland section hidden
in the tall summer weeds. Authorities talked
to “countless women who could not find
their children.” In the news it was unclear who even
owned the cemetery now—its absentee trustees—
Perpetua Holdings Inc. owned by Pacesetter Capital,
P.O. Box listed in Richardson, Texas.
The office manager and her lackeys caught
burning the oldest burial records.
Only after this second desecration
did Till’s casket rate acceptance into the collection
of the Smithsonian. And then I realized
I was sick of trying to write about the South—
its tired pathos, how easily everything planted
in the ground would grow.
I almost admired the way the crooks
ditched his coffin, that worthless wooden artifact,
out of what we might call greed, or in any case
the higher needs of the living. If you ever made
a donation to the Emmett Till Mausoleum Fund
call this 800 number the sheriff set up
but there will be no recompense. I followed the story
about the Chicago cemetery in California;
the South found its way into every cranny
of the country. As in a horror film
I keep climbing in and out of a casket
of pine or mahogany or western madrone,
its strips of bark peeling off like skin.
I wanted a shovel to paddle myself anywhere
upriver, but the current of the story capsized me.
The South did and didn’t matter anymore.
Either way it would never end.
The mother possum and her babies
simply moved on after the Till casket
was removed from the shed;
they weren’t poetic. They would live
like animals in any rotten wood,
Like them, I could claw my way in,
claw my way out just as dim-eyed.
I was a lucky stiff
Stuffed in a garbage bag
With a Day-Glo toe tag
The size of a Winnebago
Parallel parked against
A callus so thick and red
You’d swear it was a blow hard
Screaming holy Jesus hell or high water
About the end of the world
And the second coming
Of Burl Ives on 5th Ave & 34th St
Oblong things have always been
My Achilles’ heel
It’s no wonder I heard
When the orderly
Tried to put me in
The freezer but couldn’t
Get past my ankle
That got rankled
In the coroner’s report
He said I was left
In the slums of Calcutta
In the flavellas of Rio de Janero
In the tombs of Timbuktu
In the wounds of South Bronx fumes
And Biloxi blues
On a nowhere man cruise
My head was a cardboard box
My liver an anthill of the Savannah
Manna from heaven so hard
Nearly knocked me upside down
But I survived with
My withs about me
A roguish lout going
Toe-to-toe with the best of ’em
From the ass-end of a bottle
Of cheap perfume
Drunk off the flames
Of fruit of the looms
Where to my surprise
The cries of wine resides
In a dark alley
In broad daylight
Tapping the bottle for residue
This is how my pulse
In exchange for
They say the poor would make
Prime choice ribs
Tell that to Eve
When you see her
Belief in a winding road
The belief that a road goes somewhere,
that somewhere is destination worth
exploring ruled my early adolescent
summers and my twenties and thirties.
Any ticket might fly me to the place
dreams turn slowly dark red on branches
until they pop with sugar and juice
and land neatly in my hand.
Any smile across a room could open
into a bed where pleasure could ex-
plode into fountains of sweet sparks.
Any touch could ripen into love.
Now that glance is something I
dismiss. When roads lead only
to strip malls and gated developments
I would never willingly visit,
is it wisdom or inertia that guides
me? Can I love any place more than
this hill tall with trees I planted?
A singular love has run its tendrils
through my flesh and netted
my bones. At last finally I belong
to a place, a partner, a life I mean
to work in till I finish.
Lunar: A History
love song for Don 1925-2011
In Palomas the moon was Mexican silver awash
on the dirt street where we danced to mariachi
music that rang and shimmered like hammered tin.
Months later on a Dallas sidewalk, August’s moon burned:
93 degrees at midnight – imagine – you had come
all that way for this fire.
Outside Abilene, we said the September moon
was neon, an Orange Crush sign stopped mid-flash,
that much too sweet, that awful bright.
That next June, East Texas and our wedding sky
bore an opal cresset sure to carry us
out of one darkness into what else there was—
straight to Manhattan’s summer moons, lost and lovely
among the towers. We made our daughter under shadows
broken blue as a jazz flute’s riff across the marvelous city.
Through years we found the Roman moon a weathered coin,
the Florentine, gold leaf – and Dublins’s nightshining
was held in the Liffey’s Argentine.
Once we stood at night among the headstones
of a swept cemetery, where antique custom shaped a stark
scar in the forest: raked sand, piled seashells – one rising crescent.
Pete’s Creek Canyon in Montana held a day-moon
ghosting the sunlit noon – thumb print of smoke –
and just then sudden hail pocked the clearing with white pebbles.
Remember how Greek moonlight jeweled the island’s
paths with donkey song, poppies, whitewashed Easter
churches? It wrought some change in us we carried…
just here the words fall, fail, can’t stay
as you couldn’t stay for this poem’s still
You died instead.
Still something has to take the place of white space
so like the blank my life’s impossibly become, all fifty-four
of our years together gone – for who now can remember
them with me? Your last hour was almost midnight,
your last breath shallow on the hand I held to you
as I breathed out “I’ve loved you my whole life,”
a thing so true and strange I wasn’t sure
I’d heard my own voice say it.
That night the moon on the backyard was a brightness
close to daylight.
And not that cool white brilliance
a full circle casts. No. This was golden clarity
dropped by a half-moon, some new kind
of broken wafer overhead.
Later I would read
that the planets were aligned, on just that date,
like obedient marchers changing the whole complexion
of lit dark.
I saw then, coming home from your death,
how the moon touches the world like memory
enfolding in reflected radiance each smallest thing
to give back its only meaning – that light the net
that captures time and the many changing names
we gave to love.
I imagined the clouds beyond cornfields were mountains.
When I grow up, I said, I will live in the mountains.
Blame the books I read, the loft where Heidi
lay watching the stars climbing over her Grandfather’s mountains.
My Grandmother swore she would go back again
to her birthplace. She wanted to die in the mountains.
Now she comes back as a ghost, one of many
who crawl through the laurel hells, seeking their mountains.
Tectonic plates dance a medieval sarabande.
Rain grinds to seabed the hard hearts of mountains.
Lichens push up through the granite like dreams
in which lovers lie down to say yes to the mountains.
If valleys croon home, their smoke murmurs gone
but the wind’s moan is older than these aging mountains.
No lovers dare say what they mean:
Come away with me into the heart of my mountain.
My daydreaming girl has become an old woman,
a katydid tuning her wings to the pitch of her mountain.
—Kathryn Stripling Byer