The Tower Journal

Jed Myers

Call It Burning

A strange thing I do, this burning
the candle at both ends. I’m doing it

now. But who is it holding
that twin-flame-lit baton, and possibly

twirling it, as would a Hawaiian
dancer or some halftime majorette?

My own hands are tied
snug to these lines, in this light

I’d swear as far as I can see shines
from behind these eyes, bright flicker,

strobe of a hypoglycemic yet manic
mind—it might be more than two wick-fires

flashing, as onto a field from inside
a house. Could be a chandelier bears

any number of such tapers high, just under
the roof, the whole tindery chamber

in danger, way outside code. But so far,
however this dreaming-awake trick goes,

this shimmer-cast to expose
the ink snake, or what is a looping dark

twine of dread and hope that grows longer
across the swath of the paper—so far

I detect no smoke. This is no more
a burn than the TV left on through the murder

mystery and that gleaming array
of blades you can buy if you pick up the phone

right away—cool scintillation like that
in a billion comatose homes. No blaze,

no more a threat to the thatch of my pate,
no more a risk to my flesh than one thought

after another slithering out
on the page. Haven’t you seen

that wonder-light glimmering back of the brow
some nights, when you had a fever

or maybe you’d fallen in love, or you needed
an answer that hid in the comb of caves

in the hills of the future? Some ancient sulfur
or sodium mix friction-lit in the brain,

or pockets of psychic pitchblende in dim
decay in the dark, an interior

Milky Way of your longing’s sparks,
sum of the flecks of the stars’ reflections

all over the inner black river—it keeps our eyes
open some nights. I’m staying up

to write by it. Call it burning
the candle at both ends—who knows

what its fuel is, or how it suspends
itself behind two tiny round windows.

The First Few Light Years

What would you reach for, if you knew
you were leaving, if you had a few
minutes to pack, only what fits
in a medium brown paper sack on your lap,
sure you’re not coming back
once you take your seat, click the buckle
and tighten the strap? I don’t know
about you—I’d be thinking
quick, what’s light and small
that might serve to remind a soul
who he was on this earth? I’d look
for the images of my loves, those faces
I now have framed on the walls, tables,
and shelves of my little apartment. Well,
perhaps all along, I’ve been collecting
these visions of moments that stand
for more moments than I’d have room for
on paper encased behind plates of glass.
I guess I’ve been arranging the place
for the ease of lifting off on short notice these
smiles and beams from their quaint rectangles.
Weightless, straight into the carry-on
security would not deny me—gazes
my dear ones gave me or offered the cameras
other hands held, the smiles of those
who raised me and of those I raised,
and of the companions who chose me.
Yes, I’ve been getting ready.
As if I’ll remember, without a mind,
the way that kid in the dawn light glowed
open-eyed in his crib as we tiptoed
into his room, a minute before
he cried. And her sleep-starved blinking
in joy’s disbelief, just as she leans
to lift him. I’ll reach for these
when it’s time to fly, to check in
for stand-by. And should it be you,
among the millions, who wind up seated
beside me, what will I see
if I peek at the moments you hold
on your knees as we wisps roll the first few
light years along our last runway?

No Lake

Between San Bruno and South San Francisco,
from airport toward peninsular city,
the BART line travels a long underground

curve, and when the train’s wheels press
their centrifugal force against the steel track,
there’s a song of screams. Metal on metal

of course—not the voices I hear
let loose in this clash of great mass and hard beams, not
cries pouring out through the teeth of the dead

who might populate such places of permanent
shadow—no soldiers face-down
and silenced mid-howl with mud in their mouths, no

kids whose terminal yelps went to hell
as their windpipes went ruptured in shock waves
rippling the red white and black sand, no

such ghosts, who in their young flesh were led
to fratricide by the belief they protected
wives, mothers, and daughters who then lived

to wake in the tunnels of night their beds traveled,
women shaken from dream by their own
shrieks, as they discovered again

and again their devotion’s mistake. No such
choruses rise out of choir tiers
in the earth, no wordless harmonic refrains

pleading against the uncountable deaths
our wars have claimed. There’s no lake
in this dank passage between two stops,

no reservoir of the lost’s outcries.
I’m crazy to let my heart beat so
fast as I hear these prolonged crescendos,

chants, and whines, as if they were sung
by some damned spirits under the car. I’ve come
to visit my son, his new place on Fulton.

He’s on a hillside not far from the Haight,
where in my day the Dead hung and played.
They made a great cry of drums and guitar.

The Self and Its Strummer

Sometimes desire is larger than the body.
The body is small in its image of itself,
like it was when we were little, and one other

larger body, moved by whatever
we seemed to offer, to emanate
without meaning to at first, came close

and lifted, or probed, or stroked,
not meaning to make such a lasting
difference, making a difference forever,

this larger body including itself
in the shape of our lifelong desire. We want
what we wish we could not want, wish we could stow

somewhere else, away from us in the dark
of the earth, of night, of distance, in figures
not of the self, characters maybe

in movies or dreams. We can’t help
restaging the scene, seeking the help
we need in the shape of that larger self

who played the instrument of our sensations
as if we’d sought to be played though we hadn’t
known it. It’s forever too late

to tuck that music back inside its sheaths,
the nerves and muscles of the small body
before its desire rose, involuntarily

strummed to release, to become
the size of the self and its strummer as one.


My wishes, with their translucent if-only
wings like little blurs on their backs,
hover and light and feed on the ever-
bonier corpses of the past.

Wouldn’t it have been lovelier if
I never did ignite that first
cigarette with Elliot in the alley
behind the house we called Ishkabibble?

Had I never begun to ruin my ears,
the stacked black speaker cones splintering
the Electric Factory’s air with Quicksilver
Messenger Service’s blaring riffs….

Wishes buzz and whine like the ringing
I hear whenever it’s quiet—it isn’t
ever quiet. What if I’d whispered
instead of yelled at my little fellow

farmer, first-born, when he kept poking
too many radish seeds per hole
in that row in the soil we’d sifted? What
if I hadn’t just guzzled that one Redhook Ale?

If I hadn’t put off my visit with Jack
till I heard he was dead, well….
And if I’d let my heart’s armor fall
to the floor twenty years sooner—I cannot

but wonder, if that would unshatter
my daughter, who’d not have to watch
the ground of her parents’ marriage fracture
beneath her—no howls from upstairs….

Look how the litter of all the wreck gleams
already under the shimmer of tiny wings
in this early evening light, this future’s
sheen upon the unalterable….

My wishes, with their multiplex eyes
scanning the time-scape, keep
cleaning the quake zone’s skeleton heaps,
taking memory down to a mean

shine. Thought-sized many-legged beasts,
swarm upon the field of dead hopes,
they’ll feast to the last flesh, polish
the bones to bright ivory under the moon….

Copyright © 2014 Jed Myers

Jed MyersJed Myers is a Philadelphian living in Seattle. Two of his poetry collections, The Nameless (Finishing Line Press) and Watching the Perseids (winner of the 2013 Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award), are to be released in 2014. He won the 2012 Mary C. Mohr Editors’ Award offered by Southern Indiana Review, and received the 2013 Literal Latte Poetry Award. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Nimrod International Journal, Crab Orchard Review, Atlanta Review, Sanskrit, The Tusculum Review, and elsewhere.

Author Photo: © Rosanne Olson

The Tower Journal
Spring/Summer 2014