Jay Aquinas Thompson


from Poor & Carefree Strangers


The island tugs madrone & starfish on like a shirt,

stands naked later to be scrubbed down to its shale, rainbows of gray,

people hopping across it like sandfleas




3 a.m.


Riddling charm, riddling charm,

the moon drags its mineral light through my arm



I’m made of sexy vibrant running blood







7 a.m.


Two little yellow deciduous something or others

stir in the breeze,

the hammock too, empty but

moving like it’s alive, alive but

asleep. Peed

in the most private

shrub I could manage.




11 a.m.


Thompson 2

Little crab buries itself in the

shell rubble of the tide pool.

Vituperation and longing, names

for constellations, the torturer’s

tenderness all fade to

outlines or nothings

on the island’s time:

weak croak of the passing eagle:

one Jay thinks, that’s all the song ourThompson 3

stupid country deserves, while

another Jay

obsesses as the ants do over

an eagle-leaving at tide-line, a long

bleached leaf-fine unidentifiable





Drifting Contours I Fill In


Dorian’s foot innocent of weight

         & rough resisting earth repeats

             the coils—floating sleek

         silhouetted—of bull kelp spooled out

straight later by high tide



                    Dalwhinnie 15-year the color of

                       dry (EXTREME FIRE HAZARD) grass the bottle

                   rests on


                         garbage bag bulging

     like the abdomen of madame la vespa

          sipping muddy water at the pump


                                     soapy sunrise glow of the dishwater


                      princess from the next

                                    shoreside site

                            twirls her scepter index-finger addressing her

                      invisible subjects

                           from her balustrade

                                    of shale



2 p.m.

Big red rain-faded barn         Ropy maroon-tipped                  At the winery someone

                                                   blackberries                                says of their friend (?)

with a silver Acura                                                                        “All they do is take Ubers

small in the milking-               Money’s one local                       and

stall                                            invasive, our faded                     order Uber Eats!

                                                   American cash & bright

                                                   miles cards no





            The blanket I’d hung over head and shoulders

            to keep off the heat of the sun got hot

             & the osprey

            scre-e-e-e-e-eamed & dived, hit the water


            & came up

            empty in the hot dust dream of our day…



In the water’s beaten green-bronze-black



Stone: the old mud

folded & pressed, folded & pressed

its lichen leaven…


Thompson 4

The rip-and-scamper fracas of tide pool,

abrading wave abrading wave abrading salty wave,

little indentations of the mink’s running feet…

One-eyed barnacle larva tumble

over rock already crowded with

barnacles     like me with all these

great patches & no room on my clothes to sew them on.


Thompson 5Nature not a rest or respite but an answering

spirit, quick in fir and rainbow oil-gloss,

slow in tonguing back at the glacier.





                                 Prayers like rolling one stone over another:


if I don’t bring

more of myself to my commitments

I’m going to freak out and quit them all.




Salt-poisoned cedar trees tipped into the bay, bark

bleached white: aqua top and black trackshorts

airdrying on a rock, leaving black

shadow-damp short-and-top-print selves below.

              * Thompson 6

                              What are an island’s virtues?

                              Some kind of im-

                              memorial stony

                              slow ache it makes over:

                              in bunches of

                              madrone, beetle-eaten


                              the unflagging goodwill of


                              shale gapping far

                              enough for ants who

                              scavenge this tide’s left-



                              anemone shred,

                              red vivid smash

                              of crab?…



Tired of the Self I Meet in the Broom Grass’s Mirror


This bare buzzing meadow is nice

     but it returns to myself only myself

& its kind of wild half-asleep subjectivity

     that measures its thirst out

in months & its sex in fragile

     furry once-a-year upthrusts : I can’t imagine it growing

green though I figure it must : the grass and I have

     only so much we can

say to each other : 20 feet away

     in shade

there’s such a thing as

     my friends too with foreign-feeling griefs & satis-

factions outside (say) their theater of vibration

     minerals muddy water & a blooming that’s

on the very edge of death—




Thompson 7










Simmer-shadow-splash of the gas stove’s flame

cast in continuous motion

onto the bench: you hold

too hard onto an old intimacy with

no life but the life of story

at the cost of really feeling

the love like an unbroken wave

bearing you: you make yourself immovable.






11 p.m.


Mars shaken to pieces on the water:

the fire’s orange reflection on the underside of the leaves





Jay Aquinas Thompson is a poet, essayist, and teacher with recent or forthcoming work in Pacifica Literary Review, Passages North, Jubilat, Tammy, COAST | NoCOAST, Full Stop, and Poetry Northwest, where they’re a contributing editor. They’ve been awarded grants and fellowships from the Community of Writers, the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and King County 4Culture. They live with their child in Washington state, where they teach creative writing to incarcerated women.