Online Exclusive

From Maps for Jackie
Map into (White Trees at the Edge of) Possible Valley

days of rain project
ennui in morning
can’t explain to me
mist and gray I project

into lowest June’s 
Possible Valley
fog and wood smoke
vivid heaps of white 

leaves give the far side
of these eighteen acres
a black horse grazing
in drizzle and dim light

white leaf is like a moth 
wing I’d fix to her shoulder
what breath is absent
from the air and the dust


Postcard from the Periphery

That vintage beach 
has its golden eye on you, 
that sunset is full of ridicule. 

But there is nothing to interpret
on the Shore of the Periphery, black and white
one day, color another—

She writes illegibly, she writes
nothing, it’s printed and in cursive, 
neither pen nor pencil. 


The subject of the postcard 
is Horizon, the subject 
is History. The abstractions

where family and weather intersect. 
The gradations of gray suggesting 
shadow suggesting color 

drive home your limits, the drama 
mocks you from just beyond 
your boundaries—a hologram, 

you hang it between a toilet 
full of Comet and every exotic fringe 
she will not permit you.

You hang it on the fridge 
with a magnet shaped like a tornado, 
you tape it to the window, visible 

from every room in which you shift
your weight from one foot to the other. 
One foot to the other.


It keeps you safe.
If you tried to crease it
your arm would fracture,

if you tried to tear it
your heart would break.
Hold a match to it

and it will not catch.
In black marker 
scribble out the shore, 

and the shore will appear 
a desert before returning 
to a beach. Her message listens 

to you sleep, her message 
is mist over a wave 
you can neither decipher nor erase.


What souvenir birds 
she does not bring from 
Pigeon Point, Praia do Sancho, Bottom Bay. 

You strain to follow 
the artificial light 
neither gull nor vulture 

shines down. Which is 
above your house. 


Jackie traveled time and space
and all I got 
was this crummy T-shirt.

Wear it till the neck frays
and the pink palm tree 
flakes away. 

It takes a willing figure 
to intersect 
the daunting line 

drawn between land and sky—
Be the distant silhouette 
that suggests

the shifting of the light. 
You were almost
airbrushed out.



Waking finds 
morning the inmost warp 
in spacetime—

I host from the distance
I need to recognize
you ghosting 

my chest cavity.
I don’t need a bottle
bedside to tell me: empty.

A mountain: one slice of 
dry toast, two cups of black tea.
To chase a truer seam 

between rock and stream—
demanded abandoning

your colder ocean.


The Atheist’s Piano

A small brown body slumped 
against a wall 
is just a clump of wet leaves. Light

changes from rain to heat wave, clouds 
gathering over the skyline and burning off.
Bodies fly through this. 

A flash in a bare branch or barred window
obscures the sound of airplanes, 
but one’s belief goes on, only 

somewhere else, left behind
like directions scrawled in black marker
on the back of a diner placemat

the first rainy night I drove to Queens
to listen to you play. I am allowed 
my past in that apartment, at least 

my version of it, the radiator steam 
that continues to disperse 
and will, eventually, burn off 

of so much else. The arguments
in young Spanish that came through
the wall are, by now,

only a stranger’s vague resentment 
that lingers like the ache in my neck 
because I could never stop tracking jets 

descending over the island. 
Always up to pitch, the piano in the corner.
The proselytizing tuner would never admit

that the blemishes—the cigarette burn,
a ring from a sweating bottle—were the reason 
your upright boomed like a grand.

A rationalist and a ray of light sit at a bar. 
The rationalist says to the ray of light, 
I can’t go on like this. 

The ray of light’s reply is so blinding 
that everyone leaves 
their half-empty glasses and disappears 

into the street. One holy land 
abandoned for the promise of another. 
I’m going to line my tires with money. 

The day the air goes out and the sky 
opens with lightning and dark rain, I will 
spend it all on you if you let me

tell you, now five years and two boroughs later, 
my recurring dream where we ride 
the subway over a new and freezing 

bridge. I ask to warm my hands 
in your giant fur hat, I put in my left earbud 
and give you the right, then 

everything goes black. The instant our train 
crosses from tunnel blackness
into nightlight, music comes to us. 

Jason Labbe is the author of the chapbooks Dear Photographer (Phylum Press) and Blackwash Canal (H_NGM_N BKS). Periodical publications include Poetry, Boston Review, A Public Space, Colorado Review, and DIAGRAM. A drummer and recording engineer, he lives in Bethany, Connecticut. The poems published in the 2017 edition of Conjunctions’ online magazine are from his collection Spleen Elegy (BlazeVOX, Fall 2017).