Kathryn Jacobs

A Man I Once Knew

He punches people when he hurts too much –

then cowers from the impact: says it stings,

and that we beat him; walls himself away

in skull-sized cubicles. They look like eggs,

and cramp him dreadfully: they make him kick.

But if you hear one crack and peek inside,

you’ll see him naked, and you’ll jerk away.

It isn’t decent, what you spy in there:


nobody has a right to hurt like that

when you can’t help him. See yourself, new-flayed:

a wet, scalped something.  Which explains, I think,

why he insists you burn him; any breathe

is painful, raw like that. He likes his space.

And that way, when he kicks, your face is safe.

He reconstructs his eggshells as they’re torn:

recalcitrant: refusing to be born.


One Vote for Catastrophe


Just dead around the edges: fingers numb,

a head with last year’s thoughts re-echoing

in this year’s brain-cells – nothing too far gone.

Regurgitated pleasures: not the same,

But new ones cost so much.


Adrenalin feels splendid: just like life.

And so we milk it. Watch me tell that joke

exactly like the last time, every pause

down pat. But that’s the problem, folks. The mind’s

on automatic – resting, fuzzy-eyed,

while words spill forth: a soothing formula,

But disconnected.  Grey cells splinter off

to wonder about dinner. Coconut

sounds interesting – My friend, you need a change.


Dead nerves are calluses; disaster strips.

Snakes do it better, dragging blunted skin

on emery boards and peeling inside-out.

Catastrophe – abrasion of the soul.

It hurts. But then, at least you feel alive –



Kathryn Jacobs © 2009

Survivor’s Guilt


Let’s just say you wished the victim gone once,

and he went. Fine. Does your whole acquaintance

disappear, the second you get angry?

I dare you: try to glower me to death.

The case would never get to court – and yet


you’ve got a lynch-mob howling in your dreams.

They know you blew it somewhere. Medicine?

If you’d reminded him, he’d be here yet.

Or if you’d called that morning…friend, they know,

and they’ll devour you piecemeal. Count on it:


The prosecutor never lets it rest,

And lynch-mobs love him.  So, you want advice?

Extenuating circumstance won’t work.

Insanity defense is even worse;

the jury never buys it. Your best bet?

Plea bargain: if you turn state’s evidence


they’re almost guaranteed to let you live.

And sometimes, if you’re lucky, they’ll forgive.



Kathryn Jacobs © 2009