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Founder’s Choice
SHJ Issue 17
Fall 2017

[Two Poems]

by Jack Marshall

2nd Amendment

Now that shadows lean heavier
on our shoulders at home, more 
threatening our rights of life and core

comforts than ever, in
the world I choose to live in,
gun control means

you hit the target every time.
Otherwise it’s oral sex—just talk, 
cheap: Haqqi bah’lash, in Arabic.

When the silver lining runs out
of cash, arm your herd. You 
heard it here. Though loud 

and proud with others I’d sing, no-
where do I find anything
like democracy ring true...

except despair. In ebbing,
fading, sinking,

despair is true
democracy. Most elected
way to go. And oh,

I have little faith in books.
The less I read,
the better things look, 

like that young girl, blond, leggy, trim
in shorts, who owns nothing
but her summer skin.


I have a fear of heights

I have a fear of heights
or I’d be happy
in the sky, 

close to the mockingbird’s beak
with its dew-drop

the breeze’s caress,
lessening with lightness
the body’s stress,

closer to the light of dead stars
which is 
not dead—

(and what light!—that shines
long after its source
has gone

out!)—and night, lightening, 
is like watching
paint dry. I’d wish for flights

unfled, escapes not needed,
unpacked bags, threats not raised,
but longed-for welcome—full tide!—

and openings for reversal
leaping out of the personal

while we, living the waste and mean
pang of loss, anticipate
having been,

like the photos I see of faces looking to a time
when we’d be looking
back at them.

The white and blue, the beautiful and true,
will have their own 
day due

some other day. Until then, fixed, cold measure
carries meager

in the belfry from
which the bells are gone,
and the bereaved have fallen

dumb in air that stands high
and white as a tower
of shorefront views.

There is not much left to regret or rule
out. Times are disastrous
and the future cruel

to the human call we no longer hear
as in the time when
we were all ears!

Little tired, tethered arrow-
feathered sparrow,


SHJ Issue 17
Fall 2017

Jack Marshall

is an award-winning American poet born in Brooklyn, New York to an Iraqi father and a Syrian mother of Jewish heritage. His work often reflects and explores his cultural heritage. He is the author of From Baghdad to Brooklyn: Growing Up in a Jewish-Arabic Family in Midcentury America, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His collection of poems Sesame won the PEN Center West Award and a Pushcart Prize.

Marshall is also the recipient of two Bay Area Book Reviewers Awards, and, in 2008, a Guggenheim Fellowship. His recent books, published by Coffee House Press, include Fugitive (June 2017), Spiral Trace (2013), and The Steel Veil (2009). He currently lives in San Francisco.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury