National Poetry Month Day 10: Jacques J. Rancourt

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As Weather

At night, the goldenrod & snake-grass
obscures the oncoming cars behind their gold,
so the car seemed to bolt from Nowhere,
that place where tragedy is ripped from,
that place I’ll visit at the very end
of my life. The car bolted from nowhere
& rear-ended mine, shoved it up & over
& through the guardrail into a cove
of sapling eucalyptus. Walking through
an eucalyptus grove once, under their ceiling
of peeling bark strips, their exposed
stalks the color of chicken bone, they
released their scent down over me. Studies
found that just by walking through
an eucalyptus grove, its subjects reported
feeling noticeably happier, as if happiness
is a state you could enter through the gates
of its kingdom. My grandfather, for most
of his life, dreamt of flying over the Pacific,
looking down at his shadow crossing
over waves & the dark mounds
of whales. He’d wake before reaching
his destination, but he said, days before
he died, I feel like I’m getting close.
There must be someplace his terror goes.
Or sorrow. Or love. They must evaporate,
like sweat off the skin, & return, eventually,
as weather. All that remains of fire when
it burns down a forest are the ashy smudges
tucked between the rings of the trees: bruises
that never heal, screams pressed like a petal
between the pages of history where once I wrote
some lines in an attempt to save my life
which, having done so, I could not forsake.


Jacques J. Rancourt is the author of Brocken Spectre (forthcoming from Alice James Books in 2021), Novena (winner of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd prize, Pleiades Press, 2017), and the chapbook In the Time of PrEP (Beloit Poetry Journal, 2018). His poems have appeared in the Georgia Review, Kenyon Review, Missouri Review, New England Review, Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Best New Poets, among others. He has held poetry fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, and Stanford University, where he was a Wallace Stegner Fellow. He lives in San Francisco where he is a middle school principal. More from this author →