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About this poet

TJ Jarrett received a BA from Wellesley College and an MFA from Bennington Writing Seminars. She is the author of Zion (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014), winner of the Crab Orchard Open Competition, and Ain’t No Grave (New Issues Press, 2013). She works in software development and lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Of Late, I Have Been Thinking About Despair

its ruthless syntax, and the ease with which it interjects
itself into our days. I thought how best to explain this—

this dark winter, but that wasn’t it, or beds unshared
but that isn’t exactly it either, until I remembered

Saturday afternoons spent with my father in the garage
and those broken cars one after another. At the time,

that’s what we could afford. Broken things. Saturdays,
there was always a game on the radio and I’d stand

beside him or lie under the engine, oil cascading from
the oilpan. Daddy would curse wildly, sometimes

about the car, sometimes about the game. Sometimes
Mama called for one or the other of us from upstairs and

I’d trudge up to see what she wanted with a sigh.
We sighed so much then. Funny. If you asked us

if we were happy, we’d say: Families. They are happy.
There’s a solace in broke-down cars: you can find what

is broken. You can make it whole again. I’d pop the hood,
peer into the sooty inside and Daddy would pass me parts

for my small hands to tender to each need. Daddy
scrambled into the front seat, turned a key and a roar

came out that would be cause for rejoicing. But time came,
(this is the inevitable part) when he would draw the white

handkerchief to his head in surrender. I would always ask
if we could've tried harder. Baby girl, he’d say. She’s gone.

Copyright © 2014 by TJ Jarrett. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Copyright © 2014 by TJ Jarrett. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

TJ Jarrett

TJ Jarrett

TJ Jarrett is the author of Zion (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014), winner of the Crab Orchard Open Competition.

by this poet

poem

If you believe what you hear, he was everywhere
from Virginia to Alabama just beyond every holler.

Which is to say he was everywhere and everywhere
he was, he was unwanted. In one story, they say it

happened because if a white man said it happened,
then it happened. In another, he was a

2
poem

Sometimes I dream of a slave ship docking at port
& my grandmother has brought me here. She takes my hand
(in the dream I am very young) as we watch the children
disembark. The children are lithe & descend one after
another after another—squinting, lifting their hands to shield