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Poems—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. (

Shared Wall

that rhythmic dog

barks in triplets

a sunshine sestina

rips my hair out

Someone Near Is Killing Cats

Pulp songs play on speakers at the local

café, everyone suspicious of each other 

without saying. As I think this, the long-

haired, scrawny man near me ties his 

laptop cord into a noose and tucks it in 

his backpack, looks westward when 

the barista again mentions the string 

of killings– yesterday on this same

street, a cat found wrapped in a bag 

of torture. Though this man is likely 

innocent, when he leaves I leave, too,

looking into the neighborhood’s

eyes. I walk briskly home through 

fall’s new bite to hold my cats and

tell them to keep far from windows– 

what’s outside is all

that can hurt you, ever.

Waiting for Wedding 

ghost beside green door with eye for flowers 

a bouquet of white paint haunting the forest 

the screen door divides two world paleness 

palpable in sclera gold in the necklace atop 

bumps and ridges risen along skin ovation

Rectangular Rainbow

The clouds induce trance on the drive 

home from work today. White sheep pile 

atop each other on a ranch in Montana 

until the weight of an oncoming storm 

that never comes except for a stub of

rainbow that peeks from behind far hills. 

In the open stretch of highway it reveals itself 

as a rectangle floating in the middle of cerulean, 

squiggly lines across it, a glitch of physics 

my phone cannot capture. I text you from 

the middle lane– soaring eighty– because 

you love rainbows. You say you walked 

around our block but could not find it. 

When I arrive home I am filled with unknown, 

spiritual vigor. We split a red, frozen pizza 

then leave for a journey following our favorite

clouds above, on high alert for the rainbow. 

Guided by pink translucent clouds in blue

outlines, you ask me holistically, what are your

career goals? I can’t stop searching upward,

awestruck by the air and rare beauty

in the world, in the center of our elevated 

city of bridges and transitions and roads

that fall into each other in chaos you

must understand to survive. The sunset

is somewhere and I know our clouds 

obscure it. I know my career involves 

sacrifice but I am chasing film’s thrill. 

The whims of our uppermost winds!

I have taken you along.

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.


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