Jackie, Gary Lark

Michael Diehl, Smooth




There’s nothing left on the road but dirt.
Footfalls can be identified
in the microns of dung and silica.
The angles of feet in the dust
join and separate like a puzzle.
Night settles those notions
into a smooth path leading in either direction
since drunk and sheriff have long passed,
and work is just stirring
in the minds of those who have to do it.

Only crazy Jackie bothers the dust.
She jabbers as she walks,
gesturing, measuring tasks unseen by us,
laid out, cut to fit and assembled
between her place and town.
Skinny as a twig, bony but muscled,
bits of leaf in her hair, she knows this place
and the other in intimate detail.
Most of her classmates gone or dead,
Jackie lives in the house where she was born.

She walks into the hardware store,
looks down each aisle
and beelines for Bob Sturgis in plumbing.
“My hinges are broken,” she says.
Bob attends her with a practiced eye.
“Which hinges are those?”
“The ones in my head.
They’ve always been loose,
but I could keep things in boxes.
Now, the connections are coming apart.”

Bob has known her for twenty-some years,
ever since he came to town.
She had picked him out, for help,
to tell to about the way birds behave,
about smells on the wind.

“How can I help you, Jackie?”
“You probably can’t. I just had to say it.”
There is a panic inside her
he hasn’t seen before.
“It’s a terrible thing to watch
your mind coming unglued.
But that’s what I’m doing,” she says.

They both know this isn’t fixable.
Years ago he had let her thread pipe
in the back of the store. He had noticed
the drama playing behind her eyes.
“I wanted you to know,” she said,
and started to walk out.
He followed her to the sidewalk.
“You know where I’m at, if you need anything.”
She cocked her head listening.
“Yes,” she said, looking just above his head.

Gary Lark


Review by J.S. Absher

Jackie’s gestures, her speech, and her relationship with Bob Sturgis are beautifully evoked. The revelation in the poem is Jackie’s self-understanding and the empathy of Bob in letting her articulate it. The dialogue is superbly rendered. I will remember this poem a long time.

Scroll to Top