you are in the diode archives v5n3



Power Outage, Pittsburgh, 3 A.M.

The guy screams

you fucking bitch

and the girl five steps

behind him


he stops, waits

like an electric fence

one hot wire

his arms jerking

like he’s firing off

rounds. I’m watching

out the window

squeezing my phone

if he touches her

he almost/I think/

but collapses

on the curb

she stands above him



she does not leave now

now she touches him

the trinity of moon

and blood and river


here at the window

I drop the phone

I release I re-cradle

I curse I wave

the trinity of moon

and blood and river

once I blew out the candles

too soon

remember me

in your dreams


Family Relics: The Suicide Policeman’s Blackjack

I look for bloodstains in the leather
            like I looked for Lincoln’s in the chair
            from Ford’s Theater roped off in the museum
to imagine the moment of impact.

He killed himself with his service revolver
            the tiny brittle clipping reads.
Small enough to miss in the daily paper
            but someone didn’t.

My great uncle.  I got his watch fixed
            so it ticks again. Won for racing pigeons
it hangs on its ceremonial hook
            as if waiting to hypnotize the naïve
or compassionate.

The blackjack, the clipping, the watch.
            You might think it
a mysterious triangle, but we
            in the family follow
dotted lines, jump over the gaps
            in the liquored pools
of our besotted history.


My father enters the frame
            turns the scrapbook page
fingers the blackjack
            whacks the loose ball bearings
in its leather sack against his palm,
            another way we keep time
in our family

            and I’m hearing shot glasses
clocking against the wooden table
            in a rhythmic dirge
some might blame on blood

            so who did he hit and when
and why are there no survivors
            to smudge these pages,
to fill in and erase and reinvent,
            to claim the clock
to claim the blackjack
            and its history of hitting?


I stared at the leather chair
            roped off from my grasp
and imagined the dark stuffy theater
            and the enormous Lincoln
of history books. I knew
            the story and yet did not know
the story. 

            I listen to my father
enumerate the victims
            of the curse
that runs—does not walk
            or stroll or jog or mosey—
in the family. The particulars
            I imagine. The bedtime story
I half-told myself for my own
            ten drunken years—
good uncles, great cousins,
aunts, and laughter cut short,
            clock hands woozy.
We changed the spelling of our name
            and the labels on our bottles.
We hid the weapons
            and the maps. Both the keys
and the locks.


My father flutters the pages
            and I hear the wings
of pigeons, the dirty birds
            of our heritage.
By his own hand. Somewhere
            a steady hand fixed the clock
while cruelty landed its blows
            and my father taught me
not to turn away
            but to witness
                        and pass on.

The blackjack in a box
            will be mine
the rhythm section to the song
            I sing to my children
and the small dogs of their dreams
            that do not bark or bite
and the birds who come home to roost
            and how we shoo them away
by all means necessary

defining survival
            as avoiding small hard things
and reading the small print
            and telling time
                        the old-fashioned way.  


Jim Daniels’s recent books include Having a Little Talk with Capital P Poetry, Carnegie Mellon University Press, All of the Above, Adastra Press, and Trigger Man, short fiction, Michigan State University Press, all published in 2011. Birth Marks, BOA Editions, will appear in 2013.