Christine Jackson – Three Poems

Clam Flats Heartache

Before dawn, I prepare to wade the lowest tide
as the Narraguagus River drains to the Atlantic.
I pull on a slicker to fend off
a chill morning mist.
Still clammy inside from yesterday,
rubber boots never dry out.

On the intertidal flats,
I scan swirls of mud
for a likely bed. Holes like raisins
sunken into dough
show where mindless creatures dwell.
At each step, mud sucks at my boots,
the rough insides scraping my bare heels.
Boot prints dot the salt mire
as if across a snowy field.

I haul a hand-sized pitchfork
bent at an angle,
but rarely use it.
The rake cuts earth into slabs,
like squares of cake,
exposing embedded bivalves
instead of walnuts or citrons,
but the tool’s sharp teeth bite,
leaving shell pieces.

Inch by inch,
I work my fingers into a bubbling hole,
down the shaft of an underground cave
until my fingertips feel a hard ridge.
I claw around and under the shape,
never minding the mud jamming
under my fingernails.
Then I haul the creature toward the surface.
Circles of clay lift
until I hold a muck-crusted shell
in the pale light of creation
under an overcast sky.

Each precious shell weight
fills my hand as I drop it,
one, by one, by one
into the latticed clam hod,
packing the carrier to the top
until the gray-blue shells
no longer clack together.

The family must eat.
I carry my harvest home
to sell at our seafood business.
Too prized for us to consume,
each creature goes fresh into the world,
bathed in the briny broth
that gave it life.

Sun Shower in Key West

next to the white ibis
fiery poinciana blossoms
throw out their arms
in alarm

thunder trucks collide
crushing the air

a storm covers its head
with a silver rain sheet
then gurgles
along the gutter

sunlight streams through
ragged patches of a cloud
as if through stained glass
into the nave of a cathedral


The Sea Gazer

A bare-legged boy,
with hair blowing,
stands on a sandy shore.
His legs are tanned,
almost covering the bruises.
He longs to escape
from angry land monsters,
to swim with creatures
streaming under a milk-green sea.
Against the distant horizon,
long, low patches of islands
stretch like nocturnal animals,
while the warm salt breath of the earth
rises, lifting his pain
to a tear-washed sky.


Christine Jackson teaches literature and creative writing at a South Florida university. Her poetry has been published in several  publications, including Shot Glass Journal, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Scarlet Leaf Review, Poetry Breakfast, A Quiet Courage, Verse-Virtual, and The Ekphrastic Review. She is the author of two books of literary criticism, Myth and Ritual in Women’s Detective Fiction and The Tell-tale Art: Poe in Modern Popular Culture. She is also co-editor (with Alexander N. Howe) and contributor to the book Marcia Muller and the Female Private Eye: Essays on the Novels that Defined a Subgenre.