Jacks McNamara is co-founder of The Icarus Project. This poem is from Jack’s book, Inbetweenland. You should buy it! To learn more about Jacks, you can check out artwork by Jacks, the documentary made about Jacks (Crooked Beauty), or the Madness Radio interview with Jacks. Here is one of their poems–content warning for child neglect, police violence.
So Many Ways to Be Beautiful
this is a story about when your mom died and a boy loved you and a boy left you and a girl
loved you and you left her and your dad left too.
this is a story about the neighborhood with singed wings and pride
like a barbecue smoking out back.
this is a story about not giving up over and over again.
this is a story about believing you have a broken heart
not a mental illness.
this is a story about the ache you come home to every night
and learn to hold in your arms like the child you once were
even though no one held you in their arms back then.
this is a story about becoming capable of leaving enough space
that someone else can read your story too.
this is a story about learning
to cook squash
mix flesh tones
lay down loops
fix your brakes
and take no prisoners.
this is a story about bleeding a poem wearing a cock making a skirt hiding your shame knotting a tie and using the heel of your boots to bring her home.
this is a story about the end times and the way they become the beginning if you survive the empty hours the end of June pull your mother’s ring off the shelf where it’s slept with a lock of her hair since the moon went black and light a candle know you were loved pull a song from your throat and a stone from his lungs, remember that you are stronger than all the nightmares ghosts police.
this is the shape of almost but not quite. home. ok, a perfect horrible city where brown boys get shot by white cops, where white girls cry while helicopters fly, over and over the backyard, where babies are still learning to walk and the fog always cancels July.
shape of sound shape of sky shape of too many names for nowhere and nowhere left to hide. city of potholes city of angels city of passionflower salt and song what if
what if we finished what we started what if we brought the pigs down what if we wrote the books that no one else is writing about the lives we are still living the bodies we are still loving the signals we are crossing the men at the border the women on the street the people with mismatched pronouns and fucked up hair the people with bound breasts pink heels striped pants gender dysphoria and so many ways to be beautiful that only the schoolchildren can find the names. what if. what if we brought our gospel home.