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by Mark Jackley


Upon inventing the puzzle, our forebears left the garden,

searching for answers, oddly shaped pieces of the picture.

Tonight, uncounted snowflakes land on cars, the sidewalk,

the coffee shop with its own drifters. On delighted tongues.

No two are shaped alike, and still we don’t know why,

though earth and sky are closer. Even our footprints shine.


In his book of photographs

The Jazz People of New Orleans,

Lee Friedlander is working

in the silvery almost-heaven

of black-and-white, setting

earthly things aglow: a crucifix

on the stained wall behind Cie Frazier,

the chewed-up cheap cigar

in Roosevelt Sykes’s hand,

an old-school can of Schlitz

stubbornly clutched by Chester Zardis,

two cigarettes on the lips  

of a skinny kid in a pimp hat,

and let us not forget

Sunny Henry’s slide trombone,

Punch Miller’s trumpet,

Big Head Eddie Johnson’s sax.

The players are looking back

on the world of blood and bone,

of slaughterhouses, brothels,

Tipitina’s, Congo Square,

their watery eyes as filmy

as the corrupted Mississippi.

The glossy book is cool

in my wrinkled hands.


A future ex-wife is watching TV.

I am calling customer service

to fix what isn’t working,

the cable plan, our furnace,

whatever we were fighting about.

When I hear a woman’s voice 

ask how she can help me,

the words catch in my throat.

I stumble out of the house

and climb into my car. I haven’t said a thing.

She gently asks again,

a kind voice in the dark.

The tears begin to flow.

I close my eyes and breathe,

after so much time on hold.


Your driveway, slanting down into the carport, maybe eight feet

below the street, recalled a grave. A little bit, anyway. Though metaphor,

I’m guessing, flatlines like the brain, the drip of meaning ceases,

a busted coffee machine. And there I go again. Honey, this is hard.

Speaking of hard, your narrow bed was never coffin-like, not even

in the middle—not the dead of—winter. But that creaky house

where drafts were breaths—okay, I’ve gotta stop. Only your death

was death. Everything else was not.

Mark Jackley’s work has appeared in Fifth Wednesday, Sugar House Review, The Cape Rock, Natural Bridge, and other journals. HIs new book of poems Many Suns Will Rise is forthcoming from Main Street Rag Press. He lives in Purcellville, Virginia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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