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James Croal Jackson (he/him) has a chapbook, The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017), and poems in Pacifica, Reservoir, and indefinite space. He edits The Mantle. Currently, he works in the film industry in Pittsburgh, PA.

Can't Strategize Depression

James Croal Jackson 


Chunks of chess in my brain / surgery for / inclement weather.

sacrificing pawns for the greener good. The greener god.

I am laughing at the things you say / though they’re not funny.


Nor trying to be. But I want to be liked / and to like / and to

continue the niceties on this island. To sever the sadness / I

said I never / wanted again. But words differ from / what


happens / when you swim the sea / no shore in sight.


James Coral Jackson


in the warehouse, cigarette

smoke sweat-drenched hours

of existence you need

to find the fruit hanging on

the balance of a day I crumple

balls of soft into paper

stones to throw vast arcs

into distant garbage cans

yelling Kobe! just to miss

an opportunity of rare self-

satisfaction in repetition

my mechanical hands must

make mistakes they are

unable to elsewhere

Barclaysville, North Carolina

James Coral Jackson


Because there was no shuttle, and weak

cell service, after your wedding I drove

through the dark of some North Carolina

woods, too poor for an Uber, fuzzy

mind fragmented across navigational

satellites. I can never refuse an

open bar’s riches, a reservoir

unending despite my need for

constant refill. To thine own

self be true, I tell myself, and

for me, that’s wine and vodka

and being lost in every

direction inside a body

of metal that just does

what I steer it, meaning

a left turn when it should

have headed right and,

when I find myself later

at the same intersection,

I make the same mistake.


Walking in Rain

James Croal Jackson 


Don’t worry, I’ve seen Signs.


I know we’re not vulnerable

the way those on-screen aliens are,


deathly allergic to water. We’re made of

the stuff yet haven’t learned to fear it.


Avoid city taps. Toxic, they say.

I’m drinking tons of it, unless you mean ego,


in which there’s a bucket devoid of myself

the dark sky so badly wants to donate to.


In the way you believe, we are not aliens,

unless you mean we don’t know ourselves.


Every day, my mouth dries up

avoiding strangers. M. Night Shyamalan


dons an aluminum hat upon spotting me.

I’d do the same– leave the store looking


down at my feet, toggle up the heat

in my Ford in heavy winter clothes.


I prefer to sweat my chemical reaction out.



James Croal Jackson 


the studio microphone for months has pointed up

waiting for a song from the sky to sing into its silver

mouth that won’t open not for anyone not for you

not for Jesus to clasp his grimy hands around and preach

I’ve had enough of that growing up in Catholic school

learning the sin of condom and lamb and holy shit

I never was the rebel pounding revolution into the air

because what was there to revolutionize but the future

and no one could picture that yet with our disposable

Kodaks slinging truth first black then the world