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Jacob Hall


Behind the house, the air is not as dark as it could be. The sweetgum weighs against the split rail fence and spills color into the grass, suggests a garment to be donned or held close to the chest. On the back half of the wind, ambergris, an afterthought. It glides across my hand gripping the edges of a post askew in the dirt, over the yard to my sister as she leans against the top rail surveying the woods. She draws a breath and speaks over the fence, says that each lung builds a sterile way of knowing. Each tree intoxicates like sky on face, aster or paranoia on bone. I glance up towards the sun displaced across patchwork clouds, step around the post and walk back into the wood. Through that growth, I tread a mile until I find a thicket of air in the space between my palms. Before me, a stream of opal water. In it a specter with feathers sprouted from its wrists, magnolia leaves pulsing the veins in its neck. As it wades ankle-deep in the shallows I see that it has no mouth, realize that I have no skin, a projection of hollow body. Phantom bark begins to peel from my arms as I scratch and call out to the ghost, “I will never know you.” Beyond the creek a honeysuckle wraps as gown around the hips of an ageless oak. Thorn scrapes like barberry instinctively against a pine’s ankles. I uproot, step forward as the canopy above me shivers, and continue past the water another mile into a clearing overgrown with kudzu and crabgrass. I see a man flanked on a wet black table, eyes turned to silver like a body waiting for moss to sprout from its heart, the table some liminal shade between cedar and sawdust, skin and the words that cut through it. In that shaded space he sings, “two thirds a cut of man who never loved / two thirds a cut of man who’d never die” and the song retraces its steps, hides amongst branches waiting to drop like a knife into the next voice to escape a ripened mouth.

To Pasture

The sky is desperate for an anchor
to tie around its ankles, like that weight
could be an aphorism that would hold
everything in place. The afternoon

cuts across the rhubarb in the garden,
quick through the far fields of cotton
stretched against the trees. The children
are laughing and they are nowhere

to be found. A leaf falls from the gutter
over the basset hound as it lumbers up
the stairs onto the front porch. Two
blocks over the street is handcuffed

to an unpaved spurt of grass, its wrist
the last true need witnessed without
concern in this vast stretch of Colquitt
County, water pooled in its chest

like spring runoff. The sun is bleeding
again and no one knows how to save it
as the supper bell rings clattering across
the driveway, out through the row crop

until it reaches a labored ear and dissipates.

In Wait

To this the day is at its own ends, a resurrection
as the woodcutter spawns a word across the freeway
and gravel gives under the weight of a body. It wakes
and etches its name into the wallpaper as insects
burrow and breathe into dirt. Like the skin of a passing
air, the fear of one delay too many, bound to care
for the pale sidewalk, live wires, the weight of a chest
that rises and falls too quickly. The balcony
is another form of patience as it grows an exposed
sense “free from the boundary lines of before and after.”
Is it a watermark on an edge of building? A conversation
in the lines between one and one’s waking? The need
between skin and skin, or at least the depth wedged in that
separation. In the afternoon, the sun hangs in a moment
of suspense, like the peak still of a swing before it tightens
and buckles back to small earth—receding away
from momentum and the steps aligned outside of that
necessary arc. A matchstick lit in winter that could never
be extinguished. A mourning without mourning to say
goodbye to. The trees saunter in again across the threshold
fearing death; they smell of pavement and rain, are draped
in those constructions too malleable to harness. Our star
slides into the edges of a windowpane and we can’t imagine
that this smear of light is inauthentic—the crawl of color
across the glass, the evening in thickening tones.
We’ve always considered the body an access point and again
we grip our own backs, like that comfort could negate
any isolation, could redefine the body’s relation to itself,
but only then does that patience turn monochromatic, without
variety and leading down to the last moments of having
nothing to wait for.

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