The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Thomas Kevin O'Rourke

Jack the Thief


I pawned the singing harp uptown,
borrowed money from the dwarf
and rolled the dice all night
‘til I got my buttocks kicked
in the alley at the back of Febo’s bar.

I, Jack the drunkard,
lost my place within the thieves,
was scratching scabies and sleeping in the gutter
when Farmer John who knew me
from my days when I was silly
put me in the back of his flat-bed Ford.

He drove me to the country and dumped me in the creek
where I scrubbed and got clean shaven.
I went to work again,
milking cows and shoveling shite,
The barn where I slept was my haven.

Perhaps to be a thief and pimp is not so good,
but naught else is where souls turn tricks
because of hunger and addiction.
Yet someone helps them out and it sure ain’t
the county social worker,
and I don’t think it’s Jesus Christ or else
I would have heard by now.

The truth I think, I says to me,
is something that we know full well:
Deals cut by men of Church and State,
Big Business and the Drug Cartels.

But this might be a lie I heard onetime
when I used to be a drunk.
Better watch out what I say
or wind up shot in someone’s trunk.



Thomas Kevin O'Rourke

Paradise River


I am the Gypsy Jack, the one-eyed Jack and Kerouac,
Nietzschean Prometheus maker of computer virus
driving vampire stake into the heart of the undead
as stock markets collapse, and industries and nations.

For I am Silly Jack always looking for a job
with references like these from a guerrilla firm:
A donkey for a duck, duck for a millstone,
Dadaist composer or compositor, or what?

I know what the razed world has forgotten,
how to make the rose and where the trees roam
in their new silences. I am Tinker Jack,
cooking with compost heat and storing light in honeycomb.

Read the rainfall in Paradise River, every ripple
a synaptic firing of brain. Naked monk, son of Cain,
returning fire to the nameless gods
in their infinite gawking.

This hobo camp the house that Jack built.
Foundlings fetch lath and canvas from the ruins.
They sew yurt and tipi covers
of masterpieces from art museums.

Ceilidh with us by the firelight. Lift a foot
and cross-step among the boxelders.
Find refuge among the wandering.
Let Death come and lift its leg.

O Father, says Jack in the stormy night,
I cannot blame ye, for no man has ever been sane
or brave or honest except when legless on muscatel.
Sleep, old enemy, among empty wine jugs in the snow.

The rubble of yer fallen city spawns mutant rats
fah suppah if ye can catchem. One-Eyed Jack they call me.
Jack the Vandal, Jack the Journeyman,
Keep-yer-hands-off-me-jacket for short.




THOMAS KEVIN O'ROURKE is a working class poet and bargehand from the Saint Paul Harbor, Mississippi, Minnesota and Illinois rivers. Winner of Scottish International Poetry Award, recipient of John Gouveia Outermost Poetry Award, his poems appeared in Blue Collar Review and Ireland Poetry Review.



Previous | Next