James Croal Jackson
What I Want
Your limb fingers pressed
on the stairway keyboard,
wanna see you move like
you used to, feel your breath
close to mine in new places, say
the same words we said, even if
it was a stupid Sunday,
hear the words with my own ears,
hear them again, want to erase
and listen, hear the words
in my head, I want to feel
the air shake again electric,
the clacking marimbas, I want
your fingers, all of them, pressed
like they were, whispers,
I like to explore,
want the minor chords
out of my head, want your blonde hair
in the ridges between my teeth,
strands wrapped in my curled tongue,
tell me what the stars are like
in your own words,
want to hear them,
want to hear their twinkle
in your voice
Tonya Patrice Jordan
Seeing the Trees
eve filled in the cracks with time
she alone understood no other way
static in a cold vacuum or white cube
sees only the promise of things to come
tripping over various windfalls unaware
ably walks fallow ground with no success
a back grown great & strong never bends
eve’s endless desert still blossomed green
tumbled over adam and all that business
tragedy in making much more out of less
liberal student of self-sacrifice to a fault
safeguard against more inviting whims
her back bearing it up good & strong
two steady hands firmly on the plow
makes none for holding onto the one
a blazing shock of purple from blue
jumpstarts knowledge of her due
no longer operating in the red
adam picked up his eve
she need only believe
eve saw today
(a film in black and white)
I had gotten off the Metro a stop early, at Javel, as was sometimes my habit, with the idea of walking across the river to my flat on the quai Louis Bleriot when I saw her standing in the middle of the bridge. It was a gray day, and had been raining a bit earlier, though just then it was blowing a cold February wind. I watched her as I walked along on the other side of the bridge. She paid me no mind of course. Her eyes were on the choppy surface of the Seine. I knew what was on her mind.
I altered my course before I got to the center of the bridge and, since traffic was light, walked across. I walked past where she was standing, turned when I was almost at the other end, and walked back. I leaned up against the baluster next to her and lit a Gaulois Blonde filtre. My mother had wanted me to give up smoking all together before she died, so this was my concession.
“Miserable weather,” I said, staring at the water. From the corner of my eye I could see her turn toward me.
“Leave me alone!” she said.
“Miserable weather.” I pulled a handkerchief out of my pocket and blew my nose. I offered it to her.
“No!” she said.
Immediately I was drawn to her tear-streaked face, her thin mouse‑blonde hair whipping across her cheeks, her nose, her swollen lips, her dark brown eyes, and her oblivious to it’s lashes.
“I had a bad vision,” I said aloud to myself, putting the handkerchief back in my pocket. “I was walking by the pont Mirabeau and saw someone who was thinking of putting herself in the water. In this vision I saw her in the water, just under the surface, thrashing, and then still, and her face was white and cold and it was not the face of a person at peace.”
“Go away,” she sobbed.
“So I thought perhaps I ought to come up here on the bridge just in case she were to think that that would be a good way out. And I asked myself `Why?’ Do you know why I asked myself why?”
“No,” she pouted.
“Because I felt I might instinctively throw myself into the cold water to rescue her, and that it would all be a vain attempt, and that I, too, would perish, and I did not like the idea.”
“I wouldn’t care. Leave me alone.”
“But could I, I wondered,” I said. “Could I leave her alone? That was a question for which I did not have an answer. I wondered if I would have the strength of will to prevent myself from suffering just such a fate should she decide to throw herself in, and the question perplexed me so much that, even as I tried to walk on past, I could not. I stood, over there, and shook from fright at the question, and then my feet brought me here. At first I thought I could just continue walking on across, but my feet are irresponsible. They turned around and brought me back.”
She looked at me with eyes that were deep saucers of darkness. “You are crazy old man,” she said.
“Perhaps,” I said, “But if I am I have been so for very many years. And I am not that old, not yet. Just forty.”
“Don’t try to stop me,” she said.
“Oh no,” I said, “Not at all. I just had to see whether or not I could actually resist someone in need of being rescued. I think I can, now. I have steeled myself to the moment of truth. You go on ahead and jump, now, and I promise, I will try my absolute utmost to stand here and not do anything as you drown.”
She looked at me without comprehension.
I gripped the railing tightly, my knuckles showing. “Go ahead and do it now. I’m ready. Jump!” I insisted.
She looked at me so intensely I could not tell whether she were shaking or I was.
“I ‑‑ don’t ‑‑ want to die,” she sobbed, and I opened my arms to her and wiped her nose, and she bawled on my shirt, and I wrapped her inside my overcoat with me as I walked her home. I knew what I would hear from her, a story about lost love, parental abandonment, an unwanted pregnancy ‑‑ things I had heard others speak of many times before, and will, doubtless, continue to hear about many times in the future.
I filled a not-to-hot tub for her and put in some bath oil, and, while she soaked, I brewed a hot pot of tea. From the pain-boîte I retrieved some stale gâteaus I had purchased a few days before. I put some twigs in the wood stove and stirred the coals up. A little music from the old stéréo in the corner, cool blues and a little jazz.
She emerged after twenty minutes in a cloud of steam, clad in the terry cloth robe I had hung from the back of the lavatoire door. Her hair was wrapped in a towel and, although she still looked dangerously upset, I knew the edge was gone.
“Why don’t we have something to eat?” I suggested, and she was only too glad to comply. In the kitchen I had already a sauce pan heating the remains of the previous Sunday’s filet. I set a small card table beside the wood stove and set two places. I poured a cheap vin rouge into a couple of coffee mugs, placed her napkin upon her lap, and brought out the sauté de boeuf. I dowsed it with cognac and lit it. Her eyes grew as wide as a child’s. As soon as it went out I served her. I cut a cold roast pomme de terre in half and placed one on her plate. Then I sat down.
As soon as I did she lowered her head, and I saw her lips slightly moving. Then, in a move designed to look like she were merely wrapping herself more tightly in the robe, her index finger described a cross. Though I had lost my faith years before, and had left the order, I was moved by this gesture as seldom before.
“Amen,” I said.
She looked down; when she looked up again, she was defensive.
“I know what you’re thinking,” she said.
“No you don’t,” I replied. “I make no judgments about anyone. If anything, I think it’s touching that that part of you seems to remain unshaken.” I might have asked how that could be, but she was voraciously eating. I served her the rest of the beef, and poured myself another coffee mug of wine.
After dinner, I put her to bed in my room, and made up the sofa for myself.
The next morning I awoke to the smell of saucissons frying and found her in the kitchen. She didn’t notice me at first. She was humming as she scrambled some eggs.
“Bon jour,” I said.
She gasped in surprise. “I didn’t know you were awake.”
“That’s alright,” I said. “Are you done in the bath? I mean, I’m going to use the shower, is that alright?”
“Oui. D’accord,” she said, and her eyes lowered. At the corners of her mouth, though, her lips curled up ever‑so‑slightly.
The lavatoire had been cleaned. I showered and pulled on some clothes I retrieved from my closet.
“Thank you,” I said, after she had blessed the food, “the bathroom looks wonderful.”
“But I don’t want a domestique,” I said, “I don’t need a maid.”
She looked hurt by this.
“You are a wonderful person. This breakfast is very tasty, and the bathroom looks great, but you are the guest. You must not take these things on.”
“But they needed doing,” she said, “and I wanted to repay you.”
“Don’t repay me this way. I just wanted to help you get better, to face life.”
“I understand,” she replied, but she looked crestfallen.
“No,” I said, “I don’t think you do.”
She pushed back from the table and started to cry as she stood up. (It was then that I noticed that she was wearing one of my shirts.) “I just ‑‑ wanted to ‑‑ do something nice for someone once in my life without having to feel guilty about it!”
In the end I did not have the strength of will to prevent myself.
I took her in my arms, and, as she wrapped her slender arms about me, I kissed away the tears on her cheeks. “I didn’t mean to make you cry,” I said, “I didn’t mean to hurt you little one. Don’t cry now. You can clean if you want, you can cook. Whatever makes you happy.”
But it has been a long time now since we found love that afternoon on the bridge and trillions of liters of water have passed under that bridge, and although we married and I raise her baby as my own, I have always known that I was just her temporary refuge.
David M. Harris
Dead Letter Office: Spencer Brown
Even before I learned that you were dead,
I used to miss those horror movie marathons
in front of your TV. You filled and passed
the pipe, and we tried to pretend we were still
in the cavelike place on George Street, undergrads,
comrades in the movement and amusement.
I missed the long sessions of games,
crazy eights and canasta, your lengthy updates
on people at your library I’d never met.
Even your condescension bound me there.
My mother used to say that everyone needed
one friend they didn’t like.
I lost my ties with all the gang
from Rutgers, lastly you,
and then forgot to miss you.
But chains can rust from disuse
You died before the great migration
to Facebook and the cloud.
Tony, too, but I see BJ and Sid there now,
floating amid the twenty-first century
links. What had been
was enough for you and me,
acid and Woodstock, nights of
revolution and Richie Havens.
Then our friendship slipped
into past tense, and then so did you.
On Eric Garner: A Disposable Body
The cement pavement below is just as indifferent as the machines above. Neither sound nor fury dare disrupt the deafening muteness of state-sanctioned slaughter. Civil efficiency at its best, an assembly line of knees, elbows, forearms, and fists squeeze and choke in automated succession.
A black man once again processed through the well-oiled cogs. The mutiny of his pulsating heart is no less threatening than the cacophony of his cries for clemency.
His black body is still and yet not pale, still a threat, the factory must prevail. Silence and symphony are the only corporate the guidelines for hazardous waste disposal. So it goes, the foreman judges, and on to the next one.
White Angels and Sinful Slobs
Let us blame Mr. Garner for his own death, the conjuring of his own machination.Tarred and feathered. Rightfully so. Nothing more than a dictum of pure white fate cast upon his pitiful soul.
Black and poor. Overweight and asthmatic. Persona non grata–a legal castigation of course. A life of notes from the underground, without Dostoevsky; naturally, it’s a story of an invalid, not even worthy of being told:
Working class with limited healthcare accessibility, selling a handful of untaxed cigarettes to feed a family, this glutton was a culpable commoner without the angelic halo of a Park Avenue gym membership or even a Whole Foods gift card.
His very existence was a sin with the mark of Cain etched upon his flesh. A death well deserved for a beast whose blackness was unreserved.
greatness does not parade through an ornate palace of populist praise.
Nor does it soothe sorrow, alleviate acrimony, consolidate cheer, or mitigate misery.
It lies broken.
Haggard, harvested from a harrowing crevice of hell.
Fragmented as shards of disappointment, it cuts,
A foreigner in a forbidden land, it is cold.
It chants an insidious insult that reverberates and shakes every fractured filament and fiber feigning feeble formidability in your body.
you are smoldered, burned by the frostbite of this imp of evil. Withering away, a dry bush, you fall shamefully to your knees. Beg and plead.
It smiles — the serpent’s smile.
Let the creature haunt you. Mock you.
you have a tongue. you have legs. you have arms.
Pen and parchment. Priority. Potential. Purpose, a potent embalming fluid!
A bush now burns. Torch it. Tolerate this treachery, even the tears and the terror.
drag Greatness through the annals of desperation. Only then can You feast on its harvest, the harvest of Jubilee.
A Glimpse of Some Type of Black
A man fell.
The night calmed.
Forward, he blew
where the black mists.
All is silent here.
An ode of some kind,
sung to the fallen.
The calloused man,
ashed and muted
rolls in the void.
A myth lost.
A black scarred.
A man fell.
James Croal Jackson lives for art, adventure, whiskey, and music. He has been widely published and his poems have recently appeared in The Bitter Oleander, LEVELER, and 99 Pine Street. He moved to Columbus, OH in the middle of a 48-state road trip. Find more of his work at jimjakk.com.
Tonya Patrice Jordan is the eldest of three sisters. She loves to hear the music found in the written word. She is the author of Knowing Sunshine, a collection of poems and one short story. TJ is a poet, writer, and surgeon. She also has written two short films and the occasional opinion piece.
Jamie Brown is an award-winning playwright. (Death Comes Twice named Best Play in the regional Milton One-Act Play Festival in 2007) and has had five plays produced in the Washington, D.C. alt-theatre scene. Jamie Brown was formerly Fiction Editor for Washington Review of the Arts, Associate Editor of Sulphur River Literary Review and Wordwrights! Magazine, and served for a time as Poetry Critic of The Washington Times. Jamie Brown now publishes The Broadkill Review, and is CEO of Broadkill Publishing Associates, LLC, publishing books under The Broadkill River Press imprint, and chapbooks under The Broadkill Press imprint. Jamie Brown earned an MFA from American University in1987. Jamie Brown is author of Freeholder and Other Poems (1999, Argonne House Press, ISBN #1-887641-13-0), Conventional Heresies (2008, Bay Oak Publishers, Ltd., ISBN #978-0-9800874-2-0), Constructing Fiction (The Broadkill Press, ISBN #978-0-9826030-8-6), and Sakura: A Cycle of Haiku (The Broadkill Press, ISBN #978-0-9837789-9-8). Jamie Brown was winner of the 2013 Delaware Press Association Best Book of Verse. Jamie Brown’s fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have been widely published.
Until 2003, David M. Harris had never lived more than fifty miles from New York City. Since then he has moved to Tennessee, married, acquired a daughter and a classic MG, and gotten serious about poetry. All these projects seem to be working out pretty well. His work has appeared in Linden Avenue, Pirene’s Fountain (and in First Water, the Best of Pirene’s Fountain anthology), Gargoyle, The Labletter, The Pedestal, and other places. His first collection of poetry, The Review Mirror, was published by Unsolicited Press in 2013. On Sunday mornings, at 11 AM Central time, he talks about poetry on WRFN-LP in Pasquo, TN (www.radiofreenashville.org).
Joshua Yasmeh is an Iranian-American writer with a particular interest in the intersection of politics and literary theory.
Nkosi Nkululeko, poet and musician, hailing from Harlem, NY, has performed his written works in venues such as Apollo Theater, Nuyorican Poets Café, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Oxford University and others. He has performed for National Writers Union, Lincoln Center and Urban Word NYC. He was a member of the 2014 Urban Word NYC Slam Team for BNV (Brave New Voices) and the 2015 Urbana-NYC Slam Team for NPS (National Poetry Slam). Nkosi is a 2015 nominee for the American Voices Award, a Callaloo Fellow and has been published in Junior Scholars’ Schomburg Review, TheThePoetry and forthcoming in No Token, The New Sound and is anthologized in great weather for MEDIA’s, “Before Passing,” their 2015 Anthology.