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The Our Jackson Home Poetry Collection: 2015-2017

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The Our Jackson Home Poetry Collection: 2015-2017

Katie Howerton

 

Since the conception of our journal in 2015, we have had the honor of featuring a new local poet in each of our issues, allowing them to creatively respond to the theme given. Today, in honor of World Poetry Day, we share our full collection of poetry from 2015 to 2017 and encourage you to enjoy and reflect on the following pieces.


 

 

On Holy Saturday

Rebecca Edgren | Vol. 1, Issue 1: Vivify
 

Some winters come

              opening into us

                            slowly.
 

Each frost scrawls brighter white on the water

              in the ruts between the cotton stalks,

which darken and fold as if by fire

              or harrowing wind.
 

Such cold can call a hollowness in us

              where seismic losses have sunk

                            hidden snow fields

like anchorholds against tides.
 

The winter-welled earth recoils

              from the rivering spring.

Our caving caverns shudder

              as water strikes,

                            rising through the shafts.

 


 

Cribbage

Michael Lewis | Vol. 1, Issue 2: Tradition
 

The hands, consumed with arthritis, attempt to bridge and two-thirds of the deck slides into my lap. It’s his turn to deal. Need help? He shakes his head. The frail digits before my eyes are as wrinkled and scarred as the warped board we are playing on. They gather the deck together and shuffle the cards with slow intentionality.

Grandpa Marvin sends six cards to my end of the table. The girls who have been walking the half-mile track of asphalt begin lap six. The tall brunette smiles. I look back at my grandfather and he is studying his hand like those six cards hold a secret that will shape the rest of his days.

The trucks that drive by shake the wrought iron table holding the board, while the slender, silver pegs that are chipped at the bottom, tremble. I slide two cards in front of Marvin and he completes the crib. I cut a 5 of clubs. He whispers seven and puts down his card. I open the scoring with an 8 making fifteen-for-two. My grandfather doesn’t see all the points like he used to, but he will still beat me by twenty pegs, as his voice grows hoarse and he doses off between rounds.

 


 

Call and Response

Lauren Smothers | Vol. 2, Issue 1: Discovery
 

Go to the woods. Breathe deeply as the light changes, quick to quick step across the dogwood branches. Lay me down, lay me down in the creek bed. The light is hurting my eyes and the water’s about to run dry, feel the grass growing under the mud. I don’t know how to ask: how to form the words with my burnt lips, blackened teeth. The leaves will mulch my heart, no doubt. Fie on my heart, our fathers said. Fie on our melting hearts, sighing eyes. The words and woods become crisscross strokes, leaf and vowel, branch-that-will-not-break, conversation-that-will-not-surface. You are rising, and I am holding the dirt in one hand, your voice in the other. 

 


 

Paradise

Patricia L. Hamilton | Vol. 2, Issue 2: Elements
 

Newlyweds, we threw a few cassettes,
a tattered Rand McNally, and a bag of apples
into the Mazda 323—our good car—and pointed
toward the Georgia coast for our first real vacation.
Enticed by a Triple-A weekend deal in Brunswick,
we’d saved enough to splurge on a junior suite,
just one night on luxury’s back doorstep.
We never imagined wandering mazy streets
where weeds were the primary householders
and instinct told us to thunk down our door-locks.
Baffled by wrong turns, blasted by the sour smell
of paper mills, we found the hotel at a mall
suffering the indignities of aging with the brave face
of a genteel spinster. So much for the high life.

After sunup, on to St. Simon’s island, playground
of the monied classes to which we did not belong.
We spotted a motel vacancy sign in red neon
that conjured vacation scenes from childhood.
The Elysian pool was shaded by lovely old oaks
draped with Spanish moss. Who cared if the room
was small, the mattress lumpy? Paradise?
Plunging into that delicious coolness,
that delightful blue dazzle, lazily drinking in
the sky’s serenity before drowsing on deck chairs
in the sun, dreaming of the better days before us.
Later we strolled down to the village to admire
the lighthouse, scrunching our toes in the sand
at low tide as shrimpers trawled along the coast.

When the phone shrilled the next morning,
our bliss shattered: Check-out in five minutes!
Threats of charges for staying a single minute over,
the manager a petty martinet icking his whip.
Our tranquility—dawdling over rösti at a Swiss café,
swapping newspaper sections with the locals—dissolved
like the trees’ reflections when we’d dived into the pool
for a last refreshing dip. Scrambling now, we clattered
up and down the stairs, the phone imperious again
as we slammed the door right on the dot. Flinging bags
into our car, we vowed, “Never again!” Next year
we would afford better. But as we sped away, I turned
for a last glimpse of light dancing on that limpid water
under those graceful, moss-draped limbs. Never again. . . .

 


 

Threnody (After Judy Pennel, 1946-2016)

James E Cherry | Vol. 2, Issue 3: Harvest
 

The news arrived on a Saturday afternoon
in a place you gave your heart to, a place
that nurtured your soul in return.  

The spring day was in full bloom
with all the things you loved: peonies,
dogwoods, rhododendrons, 

when from the circulation desk, the library
director wanted to know had I heard.
Carrie, just a few days before, informed me

you were packing your possessions
to move from an earthly home
into a heavenly body that would never know

the side effects of chemotherapy or radiation.
But even her warning wasn’t enough
to dull the sharp edge of loss or stop shadows

from falling beyond the library’s plate glass window.
I sat for an hour or more, wondered
where time had gone with the people

it had taken with it. Everyone has left too soon.
Your laughter cascades from the library’s
second floor, sweeps me out of the front door

where I carry the light of your smile
like hope through an overcast day,
shelter against the forsaken night.

 


 

Vessel

Josh Garcia | Vol. 2, Issue 4: Origins
 

Once I found a blood
orange shell in the ocean’s
push and pull. I turned
it over in my
hand and thumbed the smooth inside
of its bottom lip
to find two flat, wet
hairs withdrawing into the
          spire.

I opened my hand
under the shallows,
returning what our Maker
made to the water.
I remember this
as I turn away from you
in bed. Surrender
of space to become
          yourself.

 


 

One Rainy Morning

Ross Guthrie | Vol. 3, Issue 1: Identity
 

We gods never slumber. We never sleep.
The little ones lie safe under warm blankets on a rainy morning.
The darkness of the night still lingers.

We gods are awake, offering the sacrifices of our prayers
And sharpening our skills and making their food.  
We scurry about gathering provisions so that we might go out and meet the adventure of the day.  
We used to lie under warm blankets on a rainy morning, safe, guarded, no expectations.  
But now we are gods, creators, providers, makers of the day.
It is our day to guard and protect, to gather and to store, to create and to repair.

I am a god, weak and flimsy as I am, a sham of a god, but a god nonetheless.
Here in the pale light of morning, I summon my powers and fix my
lunch pail so that the little ones who lie under warm blankets on this
rainy morning might have their food and decent shoes and a good education. 

I am a god. As I open the door to make the day, the trees clap their
hands over me and shower down a ticker-tape of red, brown, and yellow leaves upon my head.
I swallow hard, and mutter words for my ears only, “Well, here goes.”

 


 

Family Romance

Ryan Guth | Vol. 3, Issue 2: Day & Night

                1.

This is the story my mother told.
Still grieving for her father after two years,
she could barely speak yet; barely ate,
hardly slept. And so, as she lay in the dark
in that last full moment of her mourning,
he was there – his long white robe
“like a light at the foot of the bed,”
his face the way she’d known it, his voice
telling her not to worry any longer,
telling her he was all right.
                                          Just that one time.
She could go on with her own life after that. 

                2. 
This is what my father might have said,
but didn’t: that they’d been married
less than thirteen months when her father died.
That they were sleeping in her childhood bedroom.
That he lay beside her every night
and saw no robes, no angels – only
the dark pool of a mirror on the wall,
bookshelves he’d built, lights
flowing back and forth across the ceiling
from a few cars on the street below.
                                                       That he loved her…
and that his love had made no difference to her grief. 

 


 

A Musician Who Only Knows How to Play One Piece

David Malone | Vol. 3, Issue 3: Grit
 

It’s not that she’s uninterested in learning other songs, 
although she wonders, sometimes, in bed, as the man
beside her rattles through a factory floor level inhalation, 
if her hands would even fit around other melodies at this point,
if her fingers would wander, amnesiac, around the keyboard,
uncertain as to the connection between the notes on the page
and the white and black keys, an old woman gazing up and down
a street, wondering which building is her childhood home.

But what she returns to, over the years, is the thought
she hasn’t perfected it yet—she imagines every note
arranged before her, platonic, existing, untouched, 
outside of meter or rhythm or harmonic interrelation, 
a frozen, glittering tapestry of points,
a three dimensional graph existing all at the same time
and not extended out over seconds and minutes,
aural sausage extruded from the pianic grinder.
She’s tried to play it like a pointillist canvas,
her fingers jabbing a dot of each note like a hurried brush, 
the piece existing as an illusion rendered by the notes
being situated in the same chronological space, 
but and then trying to play all the notes together
to make the melody blur and blend the pigments together, 
never lifting a finger from the key before playing the next note—
she’d prefer to play it without ever lifting a finger from any of the keys,
and she dreams of pianos with infinitely redundant keys
and herself with innumerable fingers.
There are times when she hates the piece—its lack of ambition,
its limited scope—but wouldn’t she say the same about any song?
Wouldn’t she say the beauty of anything lies in its boundaries—
can anything be everything, unbounded? And, if it could, 
would we say it has an identity?

And meanwhile, of course, she finds herself wondering
if she could play it in a way where the right hand might sound
more fullbodied and deep, like mahogany or cherry, 
and the left  hand might feel less heavy, more astringent, like pine or birch. 
If she could learn to play the cello and bow it languorously, 
or, setting her shoulders and elbows to the task, 
launch a pizzicato attack, that might be the final thread,
or perhaps a concertina—does she have the name right?
She googles, reads, and heads back to the piano,
saving other songs for other days.