James Croal Jackson - "At The Mar Vista Public Library", "Guys Who Lie About Being Terminally Ill" and "Dogs"


"At The Mar Vista Public Library"


the ponytail blonde in the banana sweater & black leggings

floats in some fiction world she belongs in

then asks the librarian a question I cannot hear


she shrugs when she speaks

(reluctant windmill)


she figure-skates her slow, shelved glissando

(fantasia of the no-talking zone)


I am writing this poem when

she shoots past my table

with a green hardcover book–


I did not catch the title

or ask for her name

so I am left with

only my words:



I find harder

& harder to





"Guys Who Lie About Being Terminally Ill"


Of all the things to want and never–


death, a cardboard box of pity and riches,

crosses the ocean in a FedEx plane

from a foreign world for you.  


It’s the thinning–

no one disbelieves

your supposed withering.


With skull under scalpel,

tell me your scars.

That’s where the recovery begins.




i know it's the other way around

but i see the dogs in people


that intense hunger of waiting

by a wooden door so close to the thrust of opening


i want to eat the walls that keep you away

the doorknob you twist to leave

the blankets you always hide beneath


i hold my waste for hours

the measured discipline


when you speak your breath is memory

what you’ve consumed

i can’t look anywhere else


push me away i cling to you a vestige

of humanity is all remains the last living thing

who would love me

you and your bureaucratic affection

the withholding of every emotion

makes you vulnerable


i was born to want you by my side



my lamb

my wishbone

between teeth


like a star holds to gravity

before its collapse


some adherence to light

before the drift


the absolute zero of desire

far from the wild where

we were raised to want

close to where we want to be


James Croal Jackson is a writer, musician, and occasional filmmaker whose work in film and TV in Los Angeles led to a rediscovery of his love of poetry. His poems have appeared in magazines including The Bitter Oleander, Lines+Stars, and Columbia College Literary Review. He is the winner of the 2016 William Redding Memorial Poetry Prize via The Poetry Forum. He lives in Columbus, Ohio. Visit him at jimjakk.com.