Coal Miner

Poetry by Khary Jackson

For the lady that burnt photos of her ex, to use the ash for coal

This is what it means to be sexy.

Only in certain hands can heartbreak be so pragmatic.
I have a bookshelf of failures that beg for a kindling.

I beheld the picture she created with her ex’s coal,
his every expression and remark reduced to its essence,
applied with less brush than finger,
a blur of DNA no one could argue about.

She was not obligated to be so gentle.

I once took a CD my ex mailed me
and snapped it in five, not imagining I could have
melted it, scattered it onto a canvas and left interpretation to
whoever gave a damn.

This lady’s painting left me wishing I’d dated more artists.
A sculptor.  A sword maker.  Chef.  Glassblower.
How in absence I could have been morphed into
porcelain with no burden of rage.

I could have sat, inanimately, on a leaning table in a yard sale.
My purchase less joy than relief,
her photo albums laughing lighter, without me.

I could have been sold to an upscale pawn shop,
the money from which she’d use to buy that dress,
finally on sale.

I could have been steaming on a plate fresh from the kitchen,
in the iron arms of a server still giddy over her engagement ring,

delivered to table 34, where a young woman and her son
had their first public dinner since the divorce.

I am none of those things.

I’ll have to settle for the couch left on the sidewalk
after we’d both moved out,
the mattress we wouldn’t touch without gloves,

the loss of breath when the wrong song cuts through
the coffee shop radio, when the eyes erase the room,
the hands cradle the forehead,

mouthing anyone else’s name…




khary1Khary Jackson is a performance poet, playwright, dancer and musician. A Detroit native, he currently resides in the Twin Cities where he serves as a teaching artist and writer. He has written 12 full length plays, one of which (Water) was produced in 2009 at Ink and Pulp Theatre in Chicago. He has been a recipient of several grants, including the 2010 Artist Initiative Grant for poetry from the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the Many Voices Residency from the Playwrights’ Center, in 2005-06 and 2007-08. As a performance poet, he has enjoyed great success in national competition, ranking nationally in 2007, 2008 and 2009, as well as winning the National Poetry Slam with the St Paul team in 2009 and 2010. But few of us really care about all that. He’s a little weird, but rest assured, there’s a method to the way he stares into your house.

1 comment for “Coal Miner

  1. April 10, 2011 at 5:32 am

    I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Khary perform on multiple occasions, so it was quite a joy to see this pop up on the site. One thing I’ve always appreciated about his work is the detail, and it’s all on display here.

    This makes me want to head out to a poetry slam again. Thanks for the reminder.

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