Three Poems Exclusively from Jay Halsey’s Multi-Form Collection Barely Half in an Awkward Line

Poetry: Jay Halsey

Barely Half in an Awkward Line weaves a twelve-year span of Jay Halsey’s photography, poems, short stories, and essays. Photos featuring desolate rural and urban landscapes, thought provoking and oftentimes bizarre portraits of masked subjects, and abandoned homes, alongside written themes involving poverty, chemical abuse, homelessness, violence, the ruling class versus the working class, and the mishaps of destructive love and misguided choices, Barely Half in an Awkward Line gives voice to the insecurities and terrors derived from the habitual traumas of those struggling to be human within an inhuman society.  

Half

1.

numb fingertips on the threshold of morning twilight
and i’m off to rescue the sun from its chosen assassins.
i drive fast in dark and throw clean mortars on Facebook

as if anyone cares.

George Orwell did not predict we would be most scared of being ignored.

we are much more than social profiles and vintage craft homes and unimportant careers,
yet some of us are, at some times, barely half in an awkward line
as we inch closer to becoming that which we rebelled:

the animated death.

2.

i’ve watched so many gods drop from contemporary grace
while navigating airs thick with prayers
that were nothing but popular ritual.
indigenous angels already massaged the bored spot
behind my future—all they ever wanted was to
destroy the symbols assigned to them by humans.
all hopes of dreaming for something better
collapsed around the pulse of a weak tide

as our great bald eagles fell from virtue
—tail feathers aflame—
to alert the spawning salmon that this was not an attack

but instead
a truce.

By No Means

you never sleep. you stagger instead through daylight vacancies. the head rests where feet stand on cracked grounds, where even the cracks are cracked. and the wish down there makes delusion seem like dreams in rising. your isolation curbs hate and you chase a dim moon. chase light like mornings but darkness is home: because true love is true solitude.

a clay horse—your vision—loses stride in unfamiliar fields.

its strength depends on sorrow and paper leaves blown against the hillside where they rot before being eaten upon the mound where sunsets once lived; a great sea once lived there. still, no one lives there. the clay horse falls against a rusty ballast. and you put that ballast in your heart so that you never go to sleep angry.

but you never go to sleep.

Leaving April

Views East have yielded to office buildings challenging the skies, and April clutches to the spirits of old-growth felled long ago. The wild birdsong is gone. Death to every sunrise. The view East lost its identity in April—I lost my identity—and now the months all look the same.

I look West instead—I pick the month I want.

(Notation: It is the middle of April as I begin this. April has proven unpredictable, and rain has seeped in without knocking first. I want to leave her.)

I pick August for reasons unclear. August is hard at this latitude: in dust and dry days, the fires burn.

Perhaps I pick August to be contrary.

May is the enthusiasm August will never command, with green hills and a sun harmonious to foster abundance. May blooms vivid in color. People like color as color is associated with happiness. August is monochrome in beiges and tans—neutral.

People say rain in April brings color to May. Her rain brings mold spores. Mold spreads fastest in May. Many people feel May is less desirable than June—its days in longest light and perfect warmth.

June is an anticipation of open windows and time outdoors. Time for vacations and time for sunburns. Time spent with people, time for celebrations, time to nurse weekday hangovers, and time to fill more time.

I once read weddings are scheduled more in June than any other month. June is exhausting.

In July, we fight.

People anger more in July because of swelling heat. Anger is hostility to the opposition. Anger is heat. People create fires with their anger. People fuel the very things they oppose. The fires grow.

I anger in July because of swollen pride. Nostalgia is my opposition—I am rootless. Brittle scrub grass crumbles beneath foot in July—its roots run deep. July is discarded skin before famine in August.

Anger spreads in August like mold in May. People wait for the heat to break in August. They wait for Fall.

They fall.

Their anger breaks first. Their anger is the skeleton searching for skin shed in July. Their anger is frail bones naked and paled. I am their anger.

August is evaporation. Tears without water make salt. Salt becomes dust, and dust erodes rock to more dust. Perhaps I pick August because it is the opposite of April. Floodwaters retreat long before August.

I once read relationships break more in August than any other month. This happens at all latitudes.

August is winds tired without direction or barriers. August is space. 

(Notation: It is now almost two years later, in the middle of February, as I finish this. I left April long ago.)

Out now from Really Serious Literature

Jay Halsey’s poems and prose have been published in several online and print journals and nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net. His photography has been used as cover art for poetry collections and novels, featured in fundraising campaigns for the Rocky Mountain Land Library in Fairplay, Colorado, and was part of a touring exhibit featured at libraries and bookstores throughout France to represent Editions Gallmeister’s American authors. His forthcoming photography and multi-form collection Barely Half in an Awkward Line is being published by Really Serious Literature in the fall of 2022. He was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, and has lived on the Colorado Front Range for the past fifteen years. Since then, he’s worked as a champion for those worse off than he, explored and recorded desolate places absent of people, written of anger and love, and sought a peace that may or may not exist.

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