James Croal Jackson

Monochrome photo of an empty coffee shop, looking toward the windows and door. Tall picture windows line one wall with double glass doors on the adjacent wall. Above both the windows and doors are transom windows. An EXIT sign is above the doors. A tall bar-height table with three chairs faces the window closest to the doors. Beside it is a two-person table with one chair visible. In the center of the photo are two two-person tables, positioned at an angle. In the foreground, a chair back is visible. The table tops and floor are wood. Outside the windows a stop sign and light pole are visible. The building across the street is shrouded in scaffolding.

Photo Credit: Roey Ahram/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

I watch the line of people accumulate,
a metaphor in front of me. Because nothing

can exist without some deeper meaning.
How people walk in and out of my life

in this coffee shop and I obsess on
the butterfly effect. I occupy a table,

but there are five open tables. I drink
from a mug, but there are many mugs.

How can everything mean anything
in such insignificance? The chatter

grows louder. I need follow-up reports
for every single person who steps

inside while I am here, especially
those who look and leave quickly.

I need to know how my insignificance
becomes significant—a small gust,



James Croal Jackson is a Filipino-American poet who works in film production. He has three chapbooks: Count Seeds With Me (Ethel Zine & Micro-Press, 2022), Our Past Leaves (Kelsay Books, 2021), and The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights, 2017). He edits The Mantle Poetry from Pittsburgh, PA.

Two Poems

James Croal Jackson

Photo Credit: brx0/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

Decade Dead

I exist in a perpetual state of thirst
and cold. I think I live in winter
and I don’t even like Christmas.

And I don’t like Christ, the dead
man left hanging. Were he to have
magic, that would be a good time.

And his rich Daddy. Abandonment
issues, for sure. My dad wasn’t
rich and he only abandoned me

when he was dead. Then was
the void of the voice. All
appliances in the house breaking.

My mother and I don’t know
shit about plumbing. Dad patched
pipes while I cast Raise on my

fallen Final Fantasy fellows.
It’s been ten years and there is
still everything to learn. That’s

ten years more of everything
I haven’t learned.


Red Lobster

The host stares blank pages at us,
mumbles in the vicinity of lobsters
in that overcrowded blue tank.

The waitress sings the menu,
points to CrabFest (overtures /
variations)—we are here,

always, for Cheddar Bay Biscuits,
the perpetual stream birthed in wire
baskets that make our intestines scream

minutes after paying
the check.

It is July 6th and fireworks explode
over trees
and, of course, we think them gunshots

because we are in a public parking lot,
our bodies full of grease that could drop
any minute in this America,



James Croal Jackson (he/him/his) is a Filipino-American poet. He has a chapbook, The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017), and recent poems in Sampsonia Way, San Antonio Review, and Pacifica. He edits The Mantle Poetry and works in film production in Pittsburgh, PA. Email: jamescroaljackson[at]