October 30 – November 5, 2023: Poetry from James Croal Jackson and Brian Builta

Send us your poetry. Click here for submission guidelines.

James Croal Jackson

James Croal Jackson is a Filipino-American poet who works in film production. His latest chapbooks are Count Seeds With Me (Ethel Zine & Micro-Press, 2022) and Our Past Leaves (Kelsay Books, 2021). Recent poems are in Stirring, Vilas Avenue, and *82 Review. He edits The Mantle Poetry from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (jamescroaljackson.com)

The following work is Copyright © 2023, and owned by James Croal Jackson and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Simple Mechanics

So specific, the worthless
I know. Pre-Whale Aronofsky
and 90’s Final Fantasy.
Meanwhile, you know
biology, the human body,
femur vs. tibia, saving
lives AND money.
Dad fixed cars,
my brother fixes
bikes and houses.
I hum Uematsu
with open window
at night to listen to
the conditioner. Its drone
has been the backdrop
in life that propelled me
to this precipice of
in the mechanics
of everything: how
to assemble a desk.
How to prioritize
the day. How to
respond to the world,
you say. My eyes have
given sleep a second
thought. I won’t
recall trigonometry.
Or dig through digits
of pi for meaning. Won’t
dribble a basketball and sing
simultaneously. All I know
is I exert force from crab
claws to fling the ball into
air without understanding
how birds’ wings
work. That’s what
I’m saying. Simple
mechanics make me
miss you.


The Return

You stare at me in bed,
the lump of you, a lung
breathes slowly in
its descent down the conversation
we will have. Not today, but eventually
this sadness inside will eat
me. This carnivore of human
hearts. Spectacle of desire (a loaf
of bread turning green). Yes, you were
right– neither of us know it,
but the return was a knife
in my front passenger tire– we
breathe air that escapes fast. O
bedroom spotlights. O view of the glistening
city near autumn’s end.
When you say you don’t know
me, I hear you from a distance.


Wednesday Morning Sun

Wednesday morning sun threatens forever
again. I sit in my black rolling chair
attempting to make meaning out of fiddlesticks
and my new laptop’s hum. A helicopter
maneuvers to the children’s hospital nearby
and I think of airplanes and Los Angeles,
of going outside and sitting somewhere
without fear. Sometimes my body does
not function. I salute my cat passed out
on a bright sliver of carpet. I lay
with him and he leaves for my bed
but I stay.

Brian Builta

Brian Builta lives in Arlington, Texas, and works at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth. His work has been published in North of Oxford, Hole in the Head Review, South Florida Poetry Journal, New Ohio Review, TriQuarterly and 2River View.

The following work is Copyright © 2023, and owned by Brian Builta and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

We Have Getting Through Monday in Common

You will be assigned your own psychopomp
to guide you in and out of pants, perhaps
designer jeans, in that otherworldly
foolproof swoon. No yelp to help you
on that death-stained drive to church
but plenty of hospital visitors.
You never should have left that five-star
full-service uterus you were in,
no one to tell you otherwise so
here you are, a frothy existence
without tarantella lessons, a birdbrained
whirl above. You are delicious
but not nutritious. Your jounce juice
is drained, but at least you are not
a squirrel obliterated in the road
(that’s what psychopomps are for)
still flopping like a drug-addled rock star
on stage in the final phase of your career.
Your Monday is going better than you thought
when the onslaught of seizures and throbs
arrives – bang – the testudo you considered
now just another regret. Then,
a ponderance on tiptoe. You are now
easier to drink than you thought, less
of a burden to the fraught psychopomp,
more susceptible to a Satanic kink,
way less likely to squeal and roar.
Way more like Tuesday.


Anniversary No. 29

I’m beginning to resemble my dad’s
dresser drawer: a bottle of Isodettes
sore throat spray and eight pair of reading glasses.
She as responsible as a summer nap.
Together we teeter toward rampage, or
velvet, depending on the barometric
pressure. Alone, I am an early-morning hero
until she asks me to do the dishes.
Her silver hair gathers in the corners.
Our horseplay is dusty, forgotten among
all the loads of laundry, the dirty miles
we’ve walked, romance jumbled among news of
another war we’ve lost, this time against
fashion. Still, buried somewhere is passion,
we just have to arm ourselves and set out.
That’s what today is for,
forgetting our underslung grief and
making for the coast where a beach awaits,
all the dangerous children someone else’s
concern. We just have to sit and watch
the arduous parade from the shade until
a pancreas surrenders or a corpuscle ruptures
and we end our days the way they began,
naked and prone till someone happens by.

Subscribe to our weekly Newsletter: