January 28, 2022

by James Croal Jackson



month close to death. not quite. i mean
lingering. sword in my throat sharpens.
no blood just ideas. look somehow
i’ll make it through & you will too.
sun a fluorescent hospital interior
bland & tasteless. every song out
of tune piano room. cold blanket
can’t hide the notes dark &
hovering outside the window



I heard last year Uncle Keat

lost his sight, and nobody

has seen him since.

Tonight, my oldest brother– waiting

on a kidney, unable to walk–

unwraps a flashlight.

A gift of hope, I suppose,

what we lose we tend to replace

at the end of a year–

the longer Dad’s dead the wider

entropy’s net consumes us.

Today’s the fabled white

Christmas, trail of footprints

leading into the woods.

Somebody gray-bearded

and familiar waits in a clearing,

hands cupped to mouth.

There’s no warmth in

red streams of wrapping paper

hanged from winter branches.

Uncle Keat was there,

we’re sure. Somewhere

his tether.

As if another dark

world with open jaw

awaits, and time

pushes us forward,

wheels squeaking

every now and then.



Wheels spinning,

the tanker trailer bears

down the highway.

The buzzsaw precision

of power structures–

thin, bald trees–

wheels spinning

in isolated towns–

American flags

flat and paved,

70 mile per hour signs

close and sharp.



James Croal Jackson (he/him) is a Filipino-American poet who works in film production. He has two chapbooks (Our Past Leaves, Kelsay Books, 2021 and The Frayed Edge of Memory, Writing Knights, 2017) with one forthcoming: Count Seeds With Me (Ethel, 2022). He edits The Mantle Poetry from Pittsburgh, PA. (