It's mid-July in Los Angeles, and I'm writing poems in my underwear
on the back of an EXIT sign I drunkenly picked up last night
in the hospital parking lot. We can spy on my neighbors through the blinds,
if you want—they mostly sit around and smoke, but every once in a while,
the chubby guy looks at the mohawk girl with enough love to snap your bones.
The other night at a party, I told girls to write their names in Sharpie
on my arm, and they did, and the felt tip was soft like someone's tongue. I woke up alone
and had a Walt Whitman binge, and this is not a poem about how wonderful it is
to drink and be stupid with your friends; it's a promise
that someday we'll die, and that'll be just fine. Maybe what we need
is more love. Melanie and I drank Christmas coffee and sat on the dock
two hours after the park closed, holding each other through wool gloves.
That was the first time I kissed a girl and meant it. It was perfect,
just like us, just like the stars and the trees and the little beads of sweat
you get on your upper lip when you're about to cry. I really do believe
we can be good to each other. This summer I made out with sad girls in public,
took my first bong hits on a beanbag chair, broke a fancy elevator, and cheered
as the world blossomed like a Technicolor explosion, or a fire hydrant
spewing into the street. God damn, it's a beautiful day,
and if you get here fast enough, we can go hand out flowers,
or maybe break some windows and pay double the repairs,
or, if we're feeling bold, we'll tie ourselves in knots on the couch
and watch re-runs of sitcoms where people drink coffee and laugh,
and we'll have sex until we're bored and we'll drink flat soda and write poems
on each other's arms in bright black ink.
Glass bones lying in the alleys, ivory
in all our drawers. Somebody's been
going out at night and collecting the shells
after every shooting because no one can find them.
All that's left are smoke trails and holes in wet concrete,
faces like beat-up slabs of meat. Shards of stained glass.
There's something wrong with the kids.
They walk around with pistols and razor burns, hopping gutters
clogged with tar. From the helicopter footage,
you can't see the tears in the asphalt. You can't see
the veins bulging out of brawny arms as men and women
rip open iron bars and carry televisions
across crowded streets, screaming.
Jackson Burgess studies Creative Writing and Narrative Studies in Los Angeles, where he's Editor in Chief of Fractal Literary Magazine. In Paris and at the University of Southern California, he has been mentored by poets Cecilia Woloch, Mark Irwin, and David St. John. He has received funding and fellowships from USC, and placed writing in The Monarch Review, Sundog Lit, Jersey Devil Press, and a few other places.