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Two Poems By Jack Mackey

Why It Took Odysseus Ten Years to Get Home

We walk around the weekly farmer’s market booths, bleached sails

billowing in the breezes of June, light flitting onto tables, white linen

unfurling like water lilies, glittering bottles of blackberry jam and plates

of peach slices oozing nectar. No one in a hurry, no one in need.

We taste, make a lunch of samples, crab cakes, a handful of popcorn.

Tapping guitar strings try to recreate the 60’s, the pulpy ballads now

squeezed dry of memories. A tepid siren in the distance, but no

heads move. The afternoon slides gently away like a receding

wave, drawing into itself the stillness of the air, the sun-soaked metaphors

of completeness and a lack of care. I can’t think of anything

we still need, so why am I so hungry?

I sneak away to the car and wait for you to finish choosing the perfect corn,

I tidy up the mess, the backlog of half-busy lives. Papers on the floor

reveal the recent weeks, mail opened, placed back into envelopes and

discarded, the receipts from the auto repair, wine store, thrift shop, doctors.

I spread them out on my lap, press out the wrinkles, promise myself

to deal with them later.

Waiting for your return I stare at the passenger seat, I want to reach

across and squeeze your hand, lead your peach-juice fingers to my mouth.

Suddenly you appear, your arms full of green and silk, I pick up the pile

of receipts so you can sit down.

We are on a voyage, it seems, well-provisioned, a hull full

of overdue notices, heavy with the weight of hollow cravings. Under

cloud-covered stars we float, hold outdated charts and scan the horizon,

take turns at the rudder, skim past whirlpools and monsters, and arc

into currents circling the rocks.

Apologies to the Bus Driver Fifty Years Too Late

This never could have happened on a school bus –

there would have been consequences – but this was

a county bus, on its regular route, and we were high

school sophomores, coming home late from practice,

sitting in the back, being sophomoric, poking fun at each

other, making lewd remarks, throwing books, being jerks.

You tried to get us to calm down, you were kind, you

were firm, you were a pro, we ignored you, we insulted you,

we were private school shits and we didn’t care, and

I made a point of exiting through the front door

so I could let you know how much I disdained you,

in my letter sweater, dropping down the stairs, giving

you my final swipe, No wonder you’re a bus driver.


Jack Mackey lives in Southern Delaware. He holds a master’s degree in English from the University of Maryland.  His poetry has been anthologized by Darkhouse Books and the Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild. Poems have appeared in Mojave River Press, Rat’s Ass Review, Mobius, Writer’s Resist, Third Wednesday, and others.  He is a semi-finalist for the Jack Grapes poetry contest at Cultural Weekly. Jack is an active member of the Coastal Writers Workshop.

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