Gary Jackson


They released me today. At home
my mother is waiting and gives me
a fifty and a hug and
had to get back to Oklahoma.
Jim and Gary come by later.
Come walk with me.
We talk about the last girl I slept with
and how she’s dealing. We don’t
talk about ourselves.
Jim wants to see,
so I take off the bandages. A scar runs down
each wrist leaving a trail
of jagged skin in their wake.
Gary sees something
in the way I look
at those scars,
studying them.
The road map buried
under flesh. Later
we pretend
nothing’s wrong. But I’m living
in nostalgia – the moment I’m in
is already gone
and I’m looking ahead
at the open
spread of trees
off 17th and Wanamaker and
it’s not much further away.
I’m invited to stay
the night. I imagine
riding those veins
home, tracing
their origin back to the heart –
a violent muscle that threshes seventy beats
per minute even at rest.
Jim has Monster
spinning in the stereo
and one more night is all
I have.
Play me a song
before I go.

At home I take my aunt’s keys,
two bullets and
all the money I saved
and find a pawn shop
still open down 17th and
I’m imagining those trees
Six more minutes
till I park the car,
escape into the gnarled
branches of trees that all point
toward the center
of old dirt under
the lights
of dead stars.
There’s no moon
tonight but I can still feel
the worn ivory
grip. Everything around me
up. One more
one more
before the sun
shatters me
to pieces.

Gary Jackson
“Emergency” is from Missing You, Metropolis (Graywolf Press, 2010).