28 January 2007

Featured Poet: Jackie K. White

Jackie K. White has published poetry and translations in such journals as ACM,
Blackwater Review, Folio, Quarter after Eight, So to Speak, Spoon River
, and

Third Coast
. She has been a fellow at Ragdale, the Virginia Center for the Arts,
and the Mary Anderson. She is an editor for the literary annual, RHINO and an
associate professor at Lewis University. Her PhD in Creative Writing is from the

of Illinois at Chicago where she also completed concentrations
Latino/Latin American and Women’s Studies. Two of Jackie's chapbooks will be
published in 2007, "Bestiary Charming" by Anabiosis Press and "Petal Tearing and
Variations" by Finishing Line Press.

Blues for a Hard Fall


Give me a miner’s hat
I’m going down
Give me a miner’s hat
I’m going down

What does it matter that
the sun is brass, leaves flecked with fowl—
dusk blears canary to a gray-white swell.

Under my song’s a braying hound
together in the well
at the bottom of this shaft
one of us will drown.


Night heaves and my marrow darkens;
vagus nerve-throbs send the neck blood
pulsing toward a shoe to drop, or sharpen
each last leaf, each paged prayer turns to thud.

Give me a farmer’s hoe
I’m hacking through
Give me a reaper’s scythe
I’m hacking through

Fields dried up cut down are paved,
one steps into falls gets up, is shod on loss;
each day’s colder gray blanks no clean slate,
anger nettles me with prickly frost.


Give me a sailor’s slicker
I’m tossed at sea
Give me a whaler’s spear
I’m crossed at sea

what does it matter that
the sky is red – it’s swarmed with geese,
and dawn breaks to shale I have to stack.

Under the moan of a beached baleen
alone in this expanse
fog-blurred field-wide well-deep
we split, hit ground and sink.

first published in Near South (Volume 5: Winter, 2005)


Under the Laws of Motion

it is like this:

the cusp of evening, a man
shows up at the door and
instinct draws the hand
forward, and you open, I
opened it. The door that
opens closes. A world

happens inside a room
when the body that entered
meets the hand that opened,
the hand moves along
the body, the body of
space between them closes.

It is the nature of bodies to
keep moving, doors open
and close as the earth goes
on spinning and you can’t
keep the moon out of
poems. Inside the room,

a lamp glows. You begin
asking, what is the moon for?
You know you can

turn off the lamp. Inside
every house doors lead
to other rooms; inside one

a man and a woman keep
an old story between them:
somebody leaving. Outside,
equal opposite motions: leaf
rustle, foot scuff, another
hand to the threshold, a body

first published in 9th Annual Juried Reading Chapbook (The Poetry Center of Chicago, 2003)


Fernando, To Fernando

Tell me the heteronym of your worst self
and I’ll let you decipher my handwritten diary.
Today, one said, I like engines much less,
but we know that’s a lie – it’s always a you
or I unliked, and it’s all over the diary
scraps gathered from the floor of a messy
but respectable tavern, homely, adjacent
to the train station. You never dared to
get on the train long scrutinized, schedules
studied, as if you were genuine
about going someday somewhere to be a new.
How unremarkable, the failure to change
the face you look out of, the fixed
others pinned in word-photos, the wheel-
longing your stare chugs along, along with
everything, says the diary, “tremulous” and “banal” –
the inert exhaustion of wanting to want
nowhere to go. You go back to your rented
room, window to the tracks and write
nothing – blank confetti later to litter
the hardwood under strangers’ feet and
suitcases on end. The head of one self
spins with the disquiet of a departing train
the other pretends to have boarded.


From Eurynome in Exile 
The First Wandering: July, ‘98                                    
“we have to make a negotiation with the places we leave behind, the places we return to”
                                                (Andre Aciman, False Papers)

The next mornings I crept out of
my sister’s cabin holding the rest of them
in sleep on a Medicine Bow mountain,
took a path to a cluttered clearing, a broken trunk,
and notebook on knees, pursued my old routine,
beginning one of many stories.
In the hour’s stillness I could hear each
creaking tree that years from now will fall,
and the wind grew into hissing or shirring
wheels across interstate 80 rose up to me
(no matter where, I hear
highways and night trains and the “what will you do)
then something else moaned, nearer,
a voice in the branch that tomorrow
will fall beside me as I put down
The second evening:
We piled fifteen in the Chevy suburban,
drove to the summit
to watch the sun-set
on the range beyond Elk Mountain.
And back,
after the fire-side stories
outside the dark cabin,
my sister says, you could be safe
with your words here,
but my younger brother walks me
to the end of the road.

There he tells me the military
scrolling maneuver of his desert
war days eight years ago.
It’s called hearting the area--

How to capture an unknown place,
one by one the soldiers are
sent out, in opposite arcs from
an imagined center.
If they meet silence, the next two
spool out, one by one, and the first
set advances, and if no one is shot,
they close the heart at its end point.
We stood together in the middle
of the gravel road, silent for minutes,
then he says, “since you’re the smart one,
tell me, what’s this line from--
‘this is the path thou hath yet not taken,’
says, “That’s all I kept thinking when
I stood there waiting, holding my ground
for another private or enemy coming--
“And I keep hearing it in places like this--
see that full moon? You think it’s pretty,
but we’re exposed.” As we turn back
he insists, “there’s gotta be a poem in this.”
Long after my return to prairie,
squeezed again into Midwest suburbia,
it comes back to me: how to capture the land’s

snow-peaks slope into hills lush falling
pines away into Nebraska flat tawny
Iowa valleys green Illinois cornfields and soy,
and despite the simplicity I want a year for,
his words and foreign words and the diverging
roads of family tell me
there won’t be any cabin in the woods:
In this space of time
the mind’s wide
as this country, &
the questions spool out one by
one answers are
animal-like, bird-skittish, head
raised at every noise—
& where do they come from, 
the lines that haunt us—
do they say,
move out
stand still
or, arc the way
home. Is the sound
wheels, or

© 2007 Jackie White