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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.
Sep 2016 · 549
Pen and Tablet
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.
Sep 2016 · 579
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.
Sep 2016 · 643
Little Lines
Jason Harris Sep 2016
Your mistakes
and imperfections

the lines around
your eyes - small

miracles, little
biographical proofs

of your timely
Sep 2016 · 414
The Future
Jason Harris Sep 2016
Everyone always talks about it, marches blindly toward it
with its hopeful and bright days but what does the future,
the expected child of history, mean? Is it hidden in the next
sentence? In the shadow of tomorrow? A year, two, three

from now? And yeah, everyone always thinks about it,
makes plans and to-do lists for it, waits for the ease to come,
for the hardship to pass, for the bullets, like hummingbirds,
to stop flying but when I get there, will I be safe? Will the sun

rise for me? Will the crickets sing and stop as I pass them
on the street? When I get there, will my wife be safe?
Will the sun rise for her? Will the crickets sing and stop
as she passes them on the street? When I get there, will our

children be safe? With their fair skin and brown eyes? Or
will the bullets, like hummingbirds, continue to fly? I can
picture it now: driving home on the stretch of interstate
between work and home on a Friday evening, content with

the will of the week, eager to share what joys and concerns
revealed themselves within the seconds of my day, the lake a
floor of blue covered in diamonds bobbing in my peripheral,
when over the radio a journalist reports another unarmed

Black body was murdered by those trained to serve
and protect the future.
Jason Harris Sep 2016
After the 24th revolution of the longhand
on the clock, the radio plays bossa nova jazz
all night and me, I sit awake in an empty
studio replaying the day in my head as I

row alone across the lake of my notebook
as some now-deceased artist sings about
a 17-year old girl living on Montenegro St.
as beads of moonlight drip from the blade

of the paddle back into the lake as my arms
push and pull and push and pause mid-row
to catch the rhythm and blues of solitude.
Jason Harris Sep 2016
You were fourteen in Dr. A.’s class
when on that day you proclaimed
to have learned nothing and on that
day Dr. A. held no doctorate degree.

You were fourteen in Dr. A.’s class
when bodies: sick, overweight, in-shape
fell from buildings and into to TV screens
into history books, only to be stuck forever

in a New York newsreel in their Tuesday
outfits with Monday night’s love and touch
brewing, aged and earthy, from their falling
lives. If you listen closely on the eve of this day

the wind still whispers their scent of perfume
trails, still whispers what really happened
that busy day in the clouds, in the sky.
I was ten and can’t recall where I was

or in whose company but like the waters
stretched between Europe, Africa, and the
America’s, I was (am) far removed, was (am)
still putting together the blue-black lineage

of my triangular history that drowned
in the salty waters stretched, flowing
between three continents. But fifteen
years later, we (you and I) have overcome

the billowing black clouds of Tuesdays
the Monday night upsets, and the routed
maritime of our ancestors. 15 years later
you are still alive with your blue eyes

and clear face, are still four years my senior
are still my guiding light and sight of sun.
Sep 2016 · 1.1k
September 10
Jason Harris Sep 2016
Before you know it, the week is over.
Some bills paid. Meetings attended.

Congratulatory cake sliced into two
dozen squares for an engaged couple.
When suddenly, suddenly you discover

that a certain reticence has breached
the comfort and security of your partner.
Followed him to the coffee shop. Wedged

itself between his breakfast sandwich
and speech. Followed him to the city’s
public square where a large group of

suburban mothers dressed in loud colors
practiced yoga underneath spotty skies
in itchy grass. Where sunlight appeared

and disappeared from his brown skin
and wind upturned the corners of the pages
of a novel he read from as the reticence said

more to you than he had all morning
and the bees’ only agenda was to land
on the wavering yellow petals of sunflowers

and then take off into a day that would become
tomorrow's news and next year's history.
Jason Harris Sep 2016
As the water birds lifted from the morning tide,
I found myself being lifted from an unconscious
state to the dictionary by four unfamiliar syllables

like the many poets before me, searching for
the meaning of nomenclature. Interestingly enough,
it could have been me on the other side of a poem

that I would come back to after sundown: an old,
scientific word who first appeared in 1610,
whose roots grew, naturally, like the hidden

interests of a loved one, from the Latin
nomenclatura (the assigning of names).

But instead, I ended up on this side of the poem,
sitting before an empty screen and a dictionary
in a Yankees ball cap and denim t-shirt, slowly

piecing together a poem about a 17th century novel
while trying to include the sudden interest of my
loved one: French parenting literature on healthy

eating, all while slowly tying the loose ends
of a poem without meaning together.
Jason Harris Sep 2016
And even on my most
forgetful days
days when I can’t remember
what happened in an Austen novel
nor the last time I thought
of others before myself
you are still a poem
on those forgetful days
that I memorized several years ago
perched on the sill of my tongue
like birds
to take off into a
disinterred sky
waiting to be recited before a
disinterested crowd.
Sep 2016 · 883
The Beach Combers
Jason Harris Sep 2016
There were four of them dressed in loud yellow t-shirts
and muffled white-washed jeans. Three carried rubber
ended stick-picks and sand crusted sky-blue buckets  
for hypodermic needles and diapers and condoms.

The last of them, an older stocky gentleman with thick
red skin and no more than ten years left to live maneuvered
a grass-green, six-cylindered, diesel-powered tractor with
an old metallic rake attached to its bed across cold soft sand.

These four men are the edge-of-morning-heroes,
– they have to be the edge-of morning-heroes,
these four men, the beach combers.

My friends, have we appreciated the fruit of their labor?
the outcome of their edge-of-morning-efforts?

It was because of them that I was there, because of them
that the great lake was enjoyable, swimmable, because of them
that my heart had become a poem whose first stanza opened
with a young man staring off into the open, ocean-blue horizon,

water birds skipping, circling open-winged with webbed
feet behind him, his brown legs nestled firmly in the swash,
where to the left of him, a couple, neck-deep, was making love
between the familiar crest and trough of a wave, making love

between the familiar beginning and end of something
– going deeper, under still as a plane hummed overhead.

My friends, will the future appreciate the fruit of their labor?
the outcome of their edge-of-morning-efforts?

— The End —