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Three Poems by Jackson Trice

Jackson Trice is a poet and fiction writer living in Charleston, SC, USA. She was published in Scholastic’s Best Teen Writing in 2013 and 2014 and recognized by the YoungArts Foundation for her poetry in 2014. Ten years later, she is finally singing again. 


SWEET TALK FOR SOPHOMORE YEAR


We were walking through

    a corn maze that Halloween 

all the unpicked pumpkins 


went soft on their vines early. 

    You were explaining how

his freshman body felt pressed 


up next to yours. Remember how

    the cornstalks wilted 

into themselves? The cold air 


snapped the world shut, 

    fingers numb. Lemon pink 

sky taut above us, your breath


visible: a smoking engine:

    a fired gun. You were talking

about his nervousness. How it


caused a lack in rhythm. To 

    which I said,  Whatever. That’s 

disgusting. Whatever. It’s 


freezing out here. Whatever

    The sky’s so pink, how can 

it even stand itself? I think of this 


in place of that conversation: 

    In first grade, the neighbor’s 

dog tried to eat all the meat


off your face. No time between 

    your body hitting the grass, or 

your nose to his yellow 


stained teeth, Iams breath. 

    That all happened before 

we met, so I can only know 


the scar as a scar. What I know 

    firsthand is the look 

on your face upon hearing 


your older sister’s Honda 

    humming in the driveway, 

home early for Christmas 


break. I know the bruises,  

    where you put perfume 

as a get well card to your 


rib cage, elbows, wrists

    I know my own malicious,  

retrospective protection that 


creates this obsession. 

    I know I’ve become 

the bloodhound. 


I once dreamt a girl was 

    stripping right in front of me 

but she didn’t stop 


once all the skin was 

    showing & she didn’t stop 

when I asked her to. She 


didn’t stop until there was 

    nothing left but bone. Lately, 

I’ve found pieces of your 


skeleton in every corner I’ve 

    been. Can’t decide which 

part I’m more afraid of: 


The thought of his face 

    overlapping mine like double 

exposure, or that your 


bruised body’s the maze

    I’ll spend my whole 

life walking in. 



LOVESONG 3

(for Kirby


Your martini sits between us at this bar we sort of like, 

olives languishing at the bottom of the glass 

because you don’t like olives, 

call them cursed grapes


I’m looking at your hands shaping

the air as you go on about twice-

fermented wine. If it’s not champagne, 

& it’s bubbly? Throw. It. Out!

& time, it feels just like Robert Hass said 

it would in July. (Go on, 

revise. Tell me 

this line’s too esoteric 

& I will tell you not to think of this 

as a poem but a boomerang picture 

meant for only you.)


Hands ride the invisible wave of conversation. 

Drunk, at this bar we sort of love, I believe 

this is the rhythm of us. At sixteen, we passed this bar 

one hundred times & said nothing of it. 

Go figure. At sixteen, we thought 

rape jokes were funny. At sixteen, 

we thought we’d be married by now. 

To other people, of course. 

Of course. 


We’re 21 & embarrassing & the world 

is as wide as we’ve made it. Tonight it’s as wide 

as your arms stretched out. I’m going, At what age 

will I not think twice about throwing out 

a full bottle of wine? But you’re 

not listening. On to the next thing: 

singing a Sufjan song

& I listen 

because you never sing.


I’m always the one singing 

but lately you’ve been surprising me. The martini, 

for instance. The olives at the bottom 

of the glass. & I’m going, Hand me one 

why don’t you? & you jab the air 

with the sharp end of the kabob, almost 

prick my finger, as if to say: 

This is all you get. 

As if to say, 

It’d be cruel to ask for anything more. 


TIME, AS A SYMPTOM


I believe it began with the splinter. 

Searching for the light switch one night 

I ran my hand across the basement wall. 

The wood burrowed so deep down within 

the skin of my right index finger that not even 

the father who lived upstairs, not even he,

with his sleeves rolled up, with his tongue 

between his teeth, exerting all his raw good dad 

energy could tease it out. 


Six days I waited 

for the wood to free itself. Then I went 

to the doctor, who drenched the wound in iodine 

the color of gravy & went digging 

with tweezers twisting metal into nerve. 


I believe it was then that I was first 

sparked with unwelcome Knowing. 

For an instant, it all got so absurd. 

Time played out on my finger. All 

missed rhythms & mistakes, 

not just the ones I’d make. 


I swam out & into some uncanny ocean. 

I swam farther than my body would allow. 

A riptide took hold & I knew how the next moment, 

hour, year would unfold. I knew it, all. 

But Knowing’s no promise. 

Knowing doesn’t make it any easier, I’ve learned. 


Then the doctor sewed & bandaged the 

skin & revelations back in, but I was no 

longer blind. 

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