Three Poems by Marcus Jackson

First Job

Khaki smock pocketing
a ballpoint and box-knife,
I shelved processions of tinned soup,
pickles jarred in jade juice,
10-pound potato sacks, some

already rotten, nibbled by gnats.
The ceiling speakers dealt muffled music.
At closing moment’s cusp, I swabbed
all twelve aisles, bucket water murkier
each time I returned to it.

My neck and shoulders stretched
broader in the mirror before bed;
granddad glanced at me, his face
pleased as a dusted plaque.
Jobless pals teased how I lacked

time to blend with them, to saunter
neighborhood parts that sharpened
after dark. Retrieving the trackless
trains of parking lot carts, rutted
snow swallowed my shoes, wind

gnawed my ears and nose.
Reaching the store’s warm door,
the word Friday swayed
like a falling feather in my brain.
Friday, payday, check

lock-boxed in the office,
date with a girl who wore
juniper ear beads,
the movie theater’s violet air,
popcorn blooming past the bag brim,

then a midnight diner, burgers
with wide fries, tip laid
at the catsup’s flank, waitress
bringing two forks and one plate –
lemon meringue that radiated.



You don’t own any suits
that cost less than my rent.
Your office perches at hawk’s view;
mahogany paneled champagne fridge
to toast successful deals.

My mailroom radio trills,
speaker-mesh bleary
like carpet layers’ knees.

Your pupils trace ridged print
in The Wall Street Journal; Japanese tea
calms your inner caverns.

I read Zora Neale,
gulp cafeteria coffee,
hors d’oeuvres of Cheeto or Frito-Lay
while Janie and Tea Cake work The Muck.

From your Tribeca residence, you can view
the Empire State Building
light nightly like a national candle.

At my D train stop, outside a turnstile,
a couple roars at each other
over a squandered metrocard.

Could you contemplate a trade?
CEO salary
for the ingenuity of crunching
funds to square the electric?

Chauffeured Towncar
for an engine-rumped bus
with windows blanched by breath?

Monday-Wednesday-Friday chef
for scissoring coupons
and frying from a leased stove?

Eye-drying merger travel
for a broken-in couch
and bodega beer?

Calls walled with vacant talk
for a Marvin Gaye record
(evaporated ruby in your ear)?

Shuffle of annulment files,
the cufflinked filters that are your lawyers,
for a night with a woman whose skin
redeems anything the day means?

Notice how answers may not matter?

How earth simply picks
different specifics
by which it twists
each of us to dust?


Ode to Kool-Aid

You turn the kitchen
tap’s metallic stream
into tropical drink,
extra sugar whirlpooling
to the pitcher-bottom
like gypsum sand.
Purplesaurus Rex, Roarin’
Rock-A-Dile Red, Ice Blue
Island Twist, Sharkleberry Fin;
on our tongues, each version
keeps a section, like tiles
on the elemental table.
In ninth grade, Sandra
employed a jug of Cherry
to dye her straightened
bangs burgundy.
When toddlers swallow you,
their top lips mustache in color
as if they’ve kissed paint.
The trendy folks can savor
all that imported mango nectar
and health-market juice.
We need factory crafted packets,
unpronounceable ingredients,
a logo cute enough to hug,
a drink unnaturally sweet
so that, on the porch,
as summer sun recedes,
Granddad takes out his teeth
to make more mouth to admit you.