Two Poems by Marlin M. Jenkins

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


Bark

I dug beneath my jagged pieces, wedged
the chunks off and piled them
in a milk crate—saved for kindling.

I am learning to paste the pieces
back with sap and saliva. Ants

have infested the pile. They
crawl over me, carrying fragments
of wood and the dead. I cannot

brush them off. I let them fashion
a home here. I tell them
I am still learning to build.

 

Orthopedics

on visiting a specialist after my running injury,
before my prescription for anti-depressants

Doctor – I see these glowing images
up in front of us and

you’re telling me there’s nothing wrong.
I want to tell you a story: when

I injured myself, I forgot how
to stop moving. I know this whim

of long midnight run was a bad idea,
but I ran between the same two ponds

where a few weeks before I thought about
drowning and this time didn’t want to die.

I could not deny myself that victory.

You’re telling me things are back
to normal, so why can’t I dance like I used to?

Here’s another story:

in this one, the roots from the trees
have forced the sidewalks into crookedness.

We used the bumps as ramps for bikes
and skateboards but had to watch for glass—

jumped over the butts of Black & Milds
in the cracks between pavement.

In this next story,
I’m in gym class and when I’m running

is when I feel wanted here because
no one wants to pick the black kid
who can’t hoop for their team but
they want me for relays and I’ll take
what I can get. In this next one, our tree
is young and a caterpillar crawls in the space
between the trunk and a mostly-severed
branch and I decide to smash him flat between.
The branch grew in strong and I like to think
it was him that glued the pieces

back together. In this one

I am the caterpillar – you’re telling me
I have become the branch so why

do my joints still feel the weight
of so many autumns? The caterpillar

didn’t have a track team to try out for.
He spent his afternoons looking

over his shoulder, ready to run.
At least when I’m my own cause of pain

I don’t feel so powerless. Doctor – fix me.
Make it so I can run again. I’m tired

of catering my own pity party
on the corner of Westwood and W. Warren

where the liquor store clerk hides behind
bullet-proof glass. These ligaments in my legs

keep telling me quit – they want
me to slump like former neighbors’

houses, grass overgrown over my head. Doctor —
tell me what’s next. If you have no cure for this,

at least help me understand the ways
in which I’m still broken.


Photo of Marlin M. Jenkins

Photo of Marlin M. Jenkins

Marlin M. Jenkins was born and raised in Detroit and is a poetry student in University of Michigan's MFA program. His writings have been given homes by The Collagist, The Journal, and Word Riot, among others. @Marlin_Poet.