ON THE EDGE OF A VERY SMALL TOWN: Poems Old & New
By Mark Jackley (2016)
Last night I read Mark Jackley’s new poetry collection ON THE EDGE OF A VERY SMALL TOWN, and this morning I’m anxious to bolster its popularity. I really appreciate Jackley’s pace, brevity, confidence and unassuming style.
I read the book in one sitting and that’s important. It means I didn’t get bored, but instead got held in a friendly way, in an intimacy of distance where anything can be said. The poems are short, seemingly simple and usually expansive. There’s lots of white space and I was flipping pages like a champ which was fun. Remember flying through a book of poems that’s just deep enough to keep your critical mind engaged, but just light enough to be relaxing and palliative? Reading ON THE EDGE OF A VERY SMALL TOWN was like that for me.
The images are clear and uncluttered; for example, his poem “Happiness” starts here: Sometimes it rises quietly / like water in the basement. I like how he draws our attention to the sound of the water that may soften something / you’ve lugged around for years. Also, what a satisfying defamiliarization of happiness that the first two lines provide. Are you happy when your basement floods? Jackley’s speaker is and that’s refreshing.
John Hartford used to say that style is based on limitations. Jackley is confident enough to cut the pretension from these poems. Isn’t this the type of poetry we need now when elitism is under attack? This kind of verse that invites you in and holds you, and bears witness to a poet on the very edge of a small town?
If you would like your own copy of Mark Jackley’s new poetry collection ON THE EDGE OF A VERY SMALL TOWN, all you have to do is email the author at email@example.com and ask for one.
Review by Jim Thompson
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Vin’s Last Game
no rat pack or elvis
just vin scully calling the dodger’s game
and like kofuax’s fastball, down the pike
vin’s delivery is smooth as silk
through your transistor radio
leave the pyrotechnics to the other guys
you’re thinking, he calls it like he sees it
and vin’s voice follows you like an old friend
as crew cuts gave way to long hair down
to your ass and dylan and hendrix
and santana, you listened to vin’s delivery
while doing volunteer work at glide church
in san francisco
vietnam was no place for you
but nobody wanted to go then!
you couldnt always keep your daughter
from the losers in the world
but vin’s voice, calling hank aaron’s 714
or kirk gibson’s world series game winning home run
was like watching picasso create a masterpiece
now, youre winter, but the revolutionary fire still
burns, bernie sanders still convinces you
you can save the world
Vin scully’s voice floats effortlessly like the boats
on the water
For Vin Scully and Paul Kleyman
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Escape from Sierra
ten-year-old brain can’t solve.
Scotty could beam him up
if the Starship Enterprise
orbited his warp-less Earth,
but Gene Roddenberry
shoved whirring teleporters
beyond this fifth-grader’s
Carter time frame, past supermen
power grabs, past nuke exchanges.
So he endures taunts spewed
about his fake Spock ears,
not to mention upside
down insertions into
reeking trashcans and toilets.
Stained clothes washing, aggie
patterned planets beckon him
5pm each weekday on
No phasers would he wield
against thugs if he boldly went.
Easing school strife with pale
bursts of quick molecular
evaporation might solve
detergent supply issues—
fewer bullies at large
equaled fewer dunkings
equaled fewer Maytag loads—
but followers of Surak
let logical awareness
frost hot first intentions.
Self-scrutiny reveals this:
his tormentors split his mind
worse than the two-body
bifurcation of Kirk
in the “Enemy Within.”
He hates them. He loves them.
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A real Vulcan could meld two
minds and learn what secret words
tamed middle school monsters.
The place you come from
will call you home someday
when it really needs you.
Like it or not — understand it or not —
you’d do well to listen.
I couldn’t have known then
what was really drawing me back,
but time is a teacher:
It was to know my brother,
in the crucible that forged us.
Too few years later,
three sets of headlights pointed the way
as we caravanned through the desert
to carry his things home
My dad led the way in the pickup and trailer.
My older sister drove my mom
in my brother’s car.
I brought up the rear and let go the gearshift
to clutch my little sister’s knee
as she sobbed in the scoop of my passenger seat.
A moment or an eternity later,
I found myself in the cradle of the universe —
no need for clock or compass.
To be held so mercifully —
to feel as one with all that ink —
this is God, I remember thinking.
It seemed brighter in the driveway
than the moon had a right to be that night.
We crawled out broken as a car crash,
knees wobbly as a newborn calf.
My mom, my dad, my sisters, and me —
now the answer to “Where is everyone?” —
we just couldn’t believe it,
even with a box trailer full of proof.
There in the gravel, we stumbled
toward an uncertain center.
Winter’s night could have been summer’s day:
until we stood
a single pool of sorrow in the desert.
Had we stood that moment
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anywhere but in the place that made him —
the place where he made himself,
the place where we made each other —
we would have failed him.
We would have failed our own nascence.
Grandpa’s Death Watch
Grandma and Grandpa
inhabited their tenement
like two distant countries.
Grandma cooked and
cleaned in the kitchen,
Grandpa lounged in his smoker’s
chair wedged behind
the dining room table. They
slept in separate bedrooms,
framed pictures of Jesus
leaned back to back on the
wall between them. For
fifty years they kneaded
their secrets into loaves
of tall, crusty bread,
hid them behind white
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porcelain shaving mugs.
“Charlie was not my first love,”
Grandma whispered to me
as I drove her to the hospital.
Jonestown massacre loving my soul
there is no kool aid but down
and down isn’t real either
underneath my soul
there is a freeway
it is a Los Angeles freeway
heading from Pasadena
down to downtown
and into heaven
where I was born
Heaven is a place in Los Angeles
with lots of devils
and lots of rock music and pretty girls
where the wave is the universe
blasting your head off like a shotgun
under the roar of fascist music
in my life love and heart
where the grief runs lower than a 60 nanosecond jack
on some car of the future
ripping me into orbit
Visit Robin Wyatt Dun online.
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I think its time
to go to the woods again,
away from clash and roar
of politics and war.
Perhaps I could even suffer ticks,
mosquitoes, and black flies,
sit around a campfire,
forget about obituaries
and my Roth IRA,
drink Pabst Blue Ribbon
and toke weed,
on what it’s like
to be fearless, careless,
before the uniforms arrive.
Read a review of Dick’s new poetry collection Once In A Lifetime.
Check out F. Richard Thomas Amazon Author’s page.
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He watched her back a long time. Her soft sway
kept slow time steadily, his metronome.
Her elastic music measured his day.
Not a dancing creature, his mother would say,
he herked and jerked stiff as a moon
clock. Her soft back was long, a controlled sway
was her weapon of choice. She liked to play
roles: child, temptress, wayward wife whose next home
was elastic as music. All working days
bored her. His hot gaze was modeling clay
her cool hands enjoyed. He lived on his own.
She watched him back. The swift time held soft sway
over each of his steps. Her eyes delayed
his dreaming self and her diva mask loaned
him elastic music. He measured days—
rationing them. He was trying to save
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her like coins but knew she’d remain unknown.
He watched her, lost in time, her soft sway
stretched musically through his measured days.