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James Croal Jackson (he/him/his) is a Filipino-American poet. He has a chapbook, The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017), and poems published in Sampsonia Way, Perhappened and Capsule Stories, among others. He edits The Mantle Poetry and works in film production in Pittsburgh, PA.

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Self-absorption has turned me

into a selfish alien. On Earth,


we live in isolation

waiting for the cosmic dawn


to return in a brilliant explosion

that would rock this rock like


a great song

performing on its uppermost


stage, all of my being

expanding like a flower


until the whole universe

opens wide


like a Great Eyeball.

Our role will be to find



connection — a ring


of stars passing rings

of fire, each a small


cluster of blue petals.


When I tell you of my existential crisis in the shower,

of being frozen in the rain of hot water and steam,

afraid of being alive inside a universe that perhaps has


only a limited number of consciousnesses to hand out

like a bowl of Halloween candy in the dim porch light

(don’t knock, just take) — why was I born with human


privilege? I could have been a beetle hiding from

soldiers in a country bleating with siren and flame.

Why this panic as I soap myself inside the pleasures


of plumbing? You tell me you don’t know if I exist,

and it’s funny a figment of your imagination would

be sowing doubt upon your own living. I tell you it’s


funny a figment of my imagination says the same, which

you say sounds like something an illusion would say.

We drink Lagunitas in a beam of window sunlight. One


of us will live forever in the simulation of our sandbox,

the black cat floating on the wobbles of my knees, purring

softly into dark sweatpants discernible from nothing else.


You count seeds with me

and I am tired of countable things.

When I count them, they...


they... stay the same. All 

in order like a motor

in my clockwork.


Yet I plant seeds

and you plant trees and

I pick flowers while you


pick flowers and I wonder who

becomes the failure.

I plant the same seeds


but you… you… grow

into something new.

There are petals or there aren’t.


We sprout from the same earth. I need

to water this something-patch-of-dirt.

If I do, I will feel. Something.


If able to shield the cat who lives

with me from loud and unexpected noises,

I will press him to my chest and carry him

over to the staircase before pushing

down the coffee grinder, cup my hands

to his ears once the vacuum starts

running (though a gentle act of palms

on his party-hat ears is already enough

to make him sprint in the opposite direction).

Kingsford has grown used to gunshots on

television, but I can do nothing for the

barrage of fireworks leading up to

America’s Independence

Day, nor conspiracy theories

which run rampant in the sky

(because what better a home

for fake facts than fireworks —

impossibly deafening bursts of light

in the night). Recently, I have been

joking that I can talk to him one-

on-one in a shared animal language,

and he looks to the wall to relay

the story of some spider who skulked

across chipped paint in the morning

hours, above where I slept,

deep in a dream louder

than any external noise —

enough to quell the sort

of revelation that makes

me believe our futures

are fucked. I wake up

refreshed enough to wait

for the day’s new din

of whatever war’s

beating on our screens

and walls and

my heavying heart.


skies are gray my mind

lives having dug through

refrigerator for the cookie

I thought Mark bicycled

more instead I went to

salami town I burnt

a hot dog yesterday

for backyard freedom

the weeds are cut

behind the wire

and we are paranoid

of visitors someone

knocked on our door

time turned to trickle

last week a snowstorm

somehow but I have not

witnessed any weather

in a while I avoid outside

and outside avoids

me we always have

had an awkward

wave as we both

put our heads down

then move quickly

another direction

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