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Jason Harris Nov 2016
In the gray light of this late autumn morning
a young mother with holiday bags on her arms
and another set underneath her eyes, carries on
– assuming with positive intent – the American
tradition of some overweight man crawling
through chimneys. Stepping out unscathed by soot.
Her son, barely three and giddy with trust, hungrily
eats this up like a peaceful Thanksgiving meal.
These lies that we carry cautiously like gifts
and pass onto our children like genes who
then pass them onto his or her friends always
(in the end) come back unpleasantly to hurt us.
Jason Harris Oct 2016
On a cold autumn day, on the edge
of a railroad bridge, fifteen feet high,
a young bulky black kid contemplates
the impact, the end awaiting him

on the surface of a historically
winding boulevard. Below, service
men and women stand wet from rain,
stand huddled, foggy with confusion.

A paramedic, understanding
the surgeon’s warning, stands poised, close by,
blowing curls of smoke from her thin lips.
Had I the nerve, or just the access,

I would climb the slick, grassy hillside
that leads to the old rusted train tracks
and ask the young boy for his thick hands,
ask him what he thinks the moment was

like before L’Wren Scott held the rope
in her hands, the last breath in her lungs?
I’d ask him what he thinks it was like
before Don Cornelius planted

cold metal against his head and pulled
the trigger? Ask him what he thinks was
in the oven before Plath entered the kitchen?

You know, just to be heard one last time.
Jason Harris Oct 2016
Shakespeare, gazing into a waning sky,
said that her eyes were nothing like the sun.
Collins, picking fruit from trees, said that she
is not the purple wind in the orchard.

To follow this long trend of un-blazoned
poetry, I want to share with the world
that you are not the Charlie Parker jazz
jumping from the mouth of a black Phillips

radio, nor are you the paper that I
am writing this first draft on, nor
the morning coordinate geometry
that puzzled me today (or maybe you

are). Even more so, you are not the moon-
light staining trees, the stack of 18th
century British literature in the study,
your grandmother’s painting in the dining

room. Nonetheless, you are you: masterful,
opinionated, understanding; a
beloved whose beauty is better left
unmentioned in some new age poetry.
Jason Harris Oct 2016
Imagine the first rumor. The first grunt of gossip
The first finger-point of prejudice. It was probably
like noticing the sunset for the first-time. How it
stretched out across the entire scope of your vision,

peeled back into a city that wasn’t the one you were in,
like an orange peel, one skin at a time. Eventually,
the world rounded, the ice melted, ****-sapiens
grew taller. Our voices deepened, bodies thickened.

We learned to survive the cold, the floods,
the irrational wars, and crescent-mooned nights
underneath tinned roofs. Then came the enlightenment,
the evolution of speech. The first cousin of Germanic

languages; the second cousin of Romantic languages.
And then the first rumor. The first appraisal of good
or bad actions of people hardly known. I imagine
my ancestors, 1.9 million years ago, grunting

with raised brow in her partner’s direction. Pointing
at two men crouching behind a large, fallen boulder.
Pointing at a man who belongs to her neighbor,
crawling out of a cave that doesn’t belong to him.

They are probably turning over in their bone-filled
graves as I think of what to say next, laughing at how
far we haven’t come from the ghouls of gossip,
discussing how out of all the occupations in this world:

bricklayer, lawyer, educator, their descendant chose
this noble profession, this calling up of events.
Jason Harris Oct 2016
It was Freddie Hubbard on the trumpet
blowing on about some blue moon,
as if the yellow one that has occupied
the night and sometimes morning sky
wasn’t enough, when I decided to write
a poem about thinking about tomorrow.

How I will rise before the rest, run a few
miles on a treadmill overlooking a busy
boulevard and read the private memoirs
of a justified sinner. And when the tomorrow
that I was thinking about comes with its new
minutes and hours, its new obstacles and

headaches, I will think back to today
and remember the morning kiss you gave,
the silence between your body and mine,
the amount of times you changed your outfit
before the lake, the museum: the live dances
from cultures around the world that kept us from

viewing new installments, the interracial ballet
dancers tip-toeing to a tune well-known to childhood
ears. But the one memory of yesterday that will be
with me until death do us part will not be of the
Shakespeare that I read nor of the raspberry
cheesecake we shared but of you: sitting alone,

waist-deep in a bubble bath. ******* pert and
motherly exposed. Resting comfortably above
your ribcage. Showing more beauty than age.
A glass of cabernet sitting where the razors and
shampoo usually sat. A young adult novel in the
white palms your small hands. But yes. The one

memory that will be with me until death do us
part and well, even after that, will be of me looking
at you: naked in a tub, your glasses over the bridge
but on the edge of your nose, and the rest of my life

before me.
Jason Harris Sep 2016
There are a lot of words out there and the day that I reached out
with a warm autumn coffee and pumpkin scone in my hands

I realized that Merriam-Webster could not help me, that the
O.E.D could not help me, that trying to find the perfect words

to describe your bundled spirit of simplicity and truth, of
imperfection and loveliness would take centuries. By the end

of my reaching I realized that my arms had grown tired, had
fallen to my hips and hung there like a forgotten thought

in the mind, that my spiced coffee and frosted scone had spilled
a wonderful orange across the pen and tablet of my heart.
Jason Harris Sep 2016
After years of attempting this craft, I still didn’t get it.
I read it walking to class during undergrad. Back when
Roethke described how nothing would succumb to death,
not even dirt. But in time, I learned that it is a mere calling

of truth. A slight manipulation of memories. A close reading
of a scene where nothing really happens. A hillside of purple
orchards shaking in the wind, then resting its petals against
the earth. I learned that it is a foggy window seat in time

catching the first leaf of autumn connect to wet pavement
or catching two strangers, after a long day, undisturbed,
quietly ******* in the privacy of their home, smiling
at one another for reasons the world will never know.
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