I went to the party looking for an adversary
but found it in my own fist
on the walk back home through a film
of vodka and sewer grate steam.
It was late but the neighbor kids were still
playing dodge ball in the parking lot, saying,
The target is his head, aim for his head,
picking on the little guy—probably someone’s
younger brother. In a home video I’m four
with a spray bottle and my mom keeps saying,
Spray yourself in the face, Jackson!,
and I’m laughing because I can’t see
the clouds of gore looming over 2014. Today I went
to therapy with a black eye for the third time
and I could tell my therapist was uncomfortable
asking about it, so instead I talked about
my childhood—about the time my brother rode
his tricycle down the front steps
and killed two teeth. My family thought
I’d pushed him, because somehow
violence bursting outward is easier to understand.
But what’s so incomprehensible about knocking shadows
out the back of your own head?
I was thinking about my sick friend
when I realized he was probably thinking about me,
his face in someone’s toilet bowl, his bruises
obscure self-portraits. He used to say, Why not drink,
why not smoke? You’re only dying slow
and on purpose.
About the Poet
Jackson Burgess is currently pursuing dual MFAs in Fiction and Poetry at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop as a Truman Capote Fellow. His first chapbook, Pocket Full of Glass, won the 2014 Clockwise Competition and is forthcoming from Tebot Bach. He has also placed work in Rattle, The Los Angeles Review, Tin House Flash Fridays, and elsewhere.