The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

Jeremy Jahnke

Rooftops

 

Her legs are all folded up,
like your favorite pair of socks
with holes in the heels
and wiry threads.
She folds up your favorite socks
—which are perfect, despite their imperfections,
because they’re yours—
and holds them close to her chest.
And on her feet, you notice,
she has no socks of her own.

She’s a rat curled up on a rooftop
of ceramic tiles the color of sapphire gems,
the color of an ocean current that
she hopes
will take her far from this place.
She’s staring beyond the city, above it,
towards a long-overdue dream,
situated somewhere beyond the edge of the canvas.

Perhaps she hopes to escape the plague.

Behind her the city spreads
like an epidemic,
a city the color of dust, from a time before skyscrapers and high rises,
a city with peasants and street urchins
and passersby who only see
rats on rooftops.

But this rat owns these rooftops.
Their chimneys are her wards.
They’re hers,
despite her soot-stained garments,
her feet without socks,
the rag that gathers her hair against her head,
a rag the color of mottled snow,
that once could have been called white.

Passersby only see the bucket and brush she carries
as she scurries over her rooftops.
They don’t notice the ribbon in her auburn hair,
a shock of red like a cardinal’s feathers in a forest.
They don’t know the eagerness
with which she does her work,
scuttling from one ward to another,
knowing that each takes her farther from where she started.
Hoping,
perhaps one day
she’ll reach the edge of the canvas.

 

 

Jeremy Jahnke

The Double on My Shoulder

 

I was not a rooster among hens,
or even a rooster
among other roosters.
If ever I was
I was a rooster in a cage,
no room to strut.

Even wild animals learn the limits of their constraints.
Remove the leash,
and they’ll still remember the border.

And what of midnight runaways?
They don’t always find love stories.
But sometimes they do,
only love doesn’t find them.

So the runaway is in a hole
so black he imagines he’s gone blind.
He doesn’t know how he got there.
Maybe his hands dug the hole.
Maybe the shovel belongs to him.
Maybe he is the shovel.

Was there a way out again?
He tries, but he remembers the leash.

He remembers rows and rows of pews never soft enough
to make the threat of hell seem worth it.
He’s the man hiding in the back.
The activists in the streets,
the old men in congress,
the devil on his shoulders,
none of them really matter.

He’s just words on paper. He’s just the runaway.
He’s just a hand holding a leash in the dark.

 

 

 

JEREMY JAHNKE has been writing ever since he first learned how, studying the world—and escaping it—through his passion for storytelling. Although he usually writes fiction, trying his pen at a handful of short stories and a novel or two, he only recently discovered a new outlet for creativity in the world of freeform poetry.  This is Mr. Jahnke's first publication of verse.

 

 

Previous | Next