Jacob Jans is a poet, editor, web marketer, and recovering New Yorker who now lives
in Bellingham, Wa. Jacob once wrote a sonnet every hour for twenty-four hours straight.
He loves to hike, cook, and read. His current lease will not allow for pets so he has grown
attached to the Mint that lives on the balcony.


I never wanted to be a fireman or join the armed
forces but I did vote for George Bush in the fourth
or fifth grade because I saw Clinton on T.V. in a
bowling alley, cameras jostling him, and believed it was
all hype or forgery and that year I won a set of
encyclopedias for an art project I never finished and I
forgot to get them and I never wanted to be
a lawyer or understand much math but I do remember
placing a finger on a map of Canada and believing there must be
mountains there, and a cabin, and solitude
so I can someday think of answers long and
hard and people would struggle to ask for them
and they would be important and I could be
seen from a distance, like that map, my hand
on my chin, legs crossed, thinking, thinking
I will have a beard one day and pocked skin and
snow will bend the trees and there will be a clearing
and no excuses and nothing to be excused for.


Yes I used to nightly say our fathers
and stand too long beside the altar and
faint from incense and march with icons
and yes wax has burned me yes I was
Orthodox yes the hills gave me shivers
and on that train, in that old city, climbing
the castle hill, passport barely stamped,
thoughts only on payphones
how could I know what lay behind
the coming church and that the priest
would three times bang the door and
yell for the devil and I would leave
because tourists were not allowed and
I had spotlit recesses to capture and
yes in private recordings my voice once
professed what that canon endowed
me with and yes no ordnance ever
dropped on those bricks but I found
that scaffolding and reached a hand
into the shadowed grout and tugged
a piece and pocketed it and no I don't
have proof I gave it up I let it go
I have a cell phone now and live alone
and take deep breaths and sleep.


The church of my earliest memory
was moved in pieces over the freeway
to a plot of land in the woods
with skunk cabbage and boys beneath
stairs, behind trees, sweeping
forearms and joking about what
they'll put where, and I remember
the priest saying "come closer, if you believe,
come closer" and so I scooted past
old benches, flat paintings, candlestands
burning, the last tassels of the wax filled rug
to a set of four or five stairs rising up,
gold robes, this voice, wavering around me.
The second church had siding like the panels
of an ocean house and I was usually bored and
they put robes on me and had me stand
by the altar and bow and cross myself
when passing it and I loved the language
of the music, the metal click of the
incense being waved, smoke billowing
in candlelight, filling the mouth,
and oh, I am forgetting the narrow road
on the face of a cliff in Northern California,
the small creek, the talk of priests who slept
with rocks as pillows. At the creek we were separated
from the women by a hanging sheet, were they
naked, I must have been pressed
into water, oil blessed on my forehead
at this place, so secluded, how we left, I don't know.
And so far from there, years gone, and miles,
my grandmother's church in Michigan,
a single room with tight packed pews, books of songs,
blue carpet, the pastor's close cropped hair, her story
of the bird on the freeway who looked back
and then it was too late, no time left to fly away,
though she was gone, the pastor, the day my dad
stood in front of the crowd and spoke of his walk
in the woods, his mother resting now.
I want to tell you about the memories so close
they are not memory. The slow transformation
in Ohio. The churches I only ever thought of.
The maple trees, the roving bus, the free pizza,
the yard signs, how I chipped a quarter inch
of ice off my car, breath cupping my open mouth,
and now, still fresh, the church visited days ago,
the casual clothes and the slick speech,
but how can I think of this, having not even spoken
of the bright stained wood, the solid doors
we yelled against, marchers still behind,
midnight falling back the flicker of
spreading candlelight, lamb, pie, baskets
waiting to be blessed, sunrise coming,
so much marching still left.

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