Two Poems by James Croal Jackson



The Sacrament of Confession in Catholic School

In kindergarten, I sketched a vagina as a circle
lost in strands of hair, similar to a scribbled sun.

The inklings of want would soon
set sail. When I showed the drawing

to my mother, she somehow knew what it was.
Her suspicious eye taught me life is the pursuit

of the scribbled sun. The first time I drove a car alone,
zooming up the hill toward the highway, I took pictures

of the sunset without watching the road, as if heaven
could be captured with my own fingers. At sixteen

I stole Snickers bars at my first job. The dollar store
went under. It could have been worse. I told the priest

maybe God thinks I touch myself improperly.
He said to toss the dirty magazines, meaning

I didn’t change a thing. In marching band, I pressed
my mouth against the trombone’s silver mouthpiece

and kissed when I blew, spit coursing through the instrument’s body
until it dripped onto the checkered floor. I didn’t lose my virginity

too early. By then it was too late. I have seen the L.A. River
rub itself dry beneath the metal bridges, withered and silent,

while the ocean wets perpetual sand, and all I could do
was run my fingers through the tide’s receding hair.

In seventh grade the school librarian declared if anyone
in class could finish A Tale of Two Cities, it was me.

I did not finish. I was twelve and mastering arousal,
turning pages with fingers on thighs inside of skirts,

skulking my hand up to God, to the first time
I knew sanctity– and the feeling, unlike faith,

was enough to make me believe.


The Undo Feature in Gmail

Sometimes I say what I don’t mean.

There is an algorithm which can make me forget;
the others remind me to remember.

Your action has been undone. As if my actions
needed a separate undoing– I did not expect you,

with your raven hair, to perch our thousand
miles, thousand days to bottle time

and cast to sea, a folded note to be read
by a stranger at shore. Here, I am a knot

bound to be undone, tethered to a battered shoe,
and in the sprint, wind coarsens your hair.

In the cold we move closer and closer until the breathing
is stale and fogs my car’s windows, the outside world

turned gray. Confusing a fluorescent lightbulb for the moon,
I would risk one more rejection to bring you even nearer,

past the point of no return.



James Croal Jackson’s poetry has appeared in The Bitter Oleander, Rust+Moth, Glassworks, and other publications. He grew up in Akron, Ohio, spent a few years in Los Angeles, traveled the country in his Ford Fiesta, and now lives in Columbus, Ohio. Find out more here .