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Jake Syersak

from These Ghosts / This Compost: An Aubadeclogue


it’s true, I’ve tried living as far outside my body as my body would permit the abstract of, but last night

the cursive of a millipede wrote its way across my chest, & all of a sudden,

in that moment, I was all bone.

it’s the inching, the itching anxiety of unbroken bones believe me into being. into solidity. into sanity.

believe me, I could build a raft of it.


but sitting & listening to the waves slap the Lake Karachay lakeshore, the flavor of a hoof

carves my mouth a new animal noise. & here’s where

“no man is an island” shores up: in the “Pacific Gyre Garbage Patch,” in the “Great Pacific Trash Vortex,” in the “Plastic Island the Size of Texas.”

be it legion, be it lesion, or be it lesson, it goes by many names.

it goes by so many familiar names

that it goes by.


how the weight of a piano doesn’t translate into feathers & feathers won’t be lifted by a finger, unless—


in the dream, the lily-of-the-valley reared in the cavity of a lumber mill’s window sill knows little

of the valley, & yet unfurls as if in the know,

by which I mean,

I wonder: could saxifrage thrust also through an Excel sheet?

++ + ++ + ++ + ++


I think the is

in (most of



& in yet another dream I tell you, “la terre est bleu comme une orange” (the world is blue as an orange),

do you see, now, how what surrounds

wills; or, wills what’s surrounded?


you give me the look of an engine refusing to turn over & I feel gutted by some invisible wrench. but words

don’t lie. there’s never an error. or, at least, never an error’s there.

only an orange tree’s worst fear: that “the world is blue as…” may dangle too real from “…an orange.”

& my worst fear, Skull-Etcher, my worst fear is dangling too real from a too unreal world

—& that’s the reason why, outside of the dream,

I feel a little de-boned now

—why I’m all stripes, all types, all tripes of cautionary tape now.



it’s the manifestation of the world gone mantic compost makes my mind the mind of koi in koi ponds boiling over now, cycling their corporate plazas now;

the most fiery of my every last swan

has malted into a rabid lake now; the rolling of waves like the flowing cascade of a wedding dress wrought from lions, now:

this is the magic tide against now, for now: a parasitic, orangesque & cerebral dust

pollinating now, snowing

its sterile spring to lick my lungs out from under me like an under-tongue of now.

—why I’m feeling bound, obliged, impelled to trace a bad taste

left in my mouth

only in so far as it provides traction. but this is not about taste.

this is about detraction, the attraction of.

++ + ++ + ++ + ++


I think the is


“lovely is the rose” (most of

all) _______________________________________

so paint a cloud in the top-left corner of this canvas & I’ll promise to paint an isthmus in the bottom-right

& we’ll spend the rest of our lives

pretending this isn’t the isthmus my lips is.


that is, if I am destined to be the rococo of a grand hallway made of caved-in skulls then I will be the very line,

the very delineation: of legion from lesion: of lesson from lesion: if lessening, of course I’d want to crave in any cave-in I could.

to commune not with eucalyptus but with, say, the north seacoast of Germany, where a beached sperm whale’s gut splits open

& out spills

the guess-what-hello

of carburetors, pistons, gaskets, & spark-plugs: water music,

spurred by a traffic island.


—exploded views of

how are we not to consider this as fucked?

& how could I not say it again?—how are we not to consider this as fucked?

& how not to dismantle?—go ahead, dismantle.

dismantle the horsepower of that synaptic orchid, the tension you ornament & augment that muscle with. .

dismantle it backwards, slow,

from orange to origin.

did its design unspool the flourish done so with? yours or its?


what do I want to say what I want to say is:

up until now we have only a) impressed or b) undressed the world. the point is to address it, as is. as we. as as.

—not ghost, but not not as ghost;

—not compost. but not not as compost.

in pastels of petal, a the petals flows, globed. in flows of flowers, a the flowers globes, flowed. in crushes of cosmos,

a the cosmos overflows.


like how a constellation nets into out of: as: over us: is us. as us:

what algebra of aloe

you & I are.

what sobering moment of stars: of wow: of scars: exact as a rhyme: exact as tree with me.

this kiss: sensation: twisted into definition. ++ + ++ + ++ + ++


I think the is


“lovely is the rose”

is (most of

all). _______________________________________

& now the distance I can taste is a medium—& we—

—we are the visible cartographers inside invisible instruments, outlined

& made real by the music

we’ve tuned to. into.



in yet another, other dream, I watch icicles hang from the ocotillo tips; I’ve faked sick so I can stay home all day under my blanket.

& from there, watch the proximal snowfall

in a desert too unrealistically cold to be realistically any desert

flood & fold a cricket’s skull

into global nausea:

the feigned-vein of distance, of nothingness, of “too much with us.”


no violence: no locale: no valentine.

just wind.

like its familiarity might fill a white hotel robe, as if a belt of doves unraveled. say sky & skull, simultaneously,

breathed in, are one.

arthritic click of this: the global pastoral: my face, my stare: my callus, my Arcadia.

—Skull-Etcher, it’s only just now—somewhere

in your kiss drying on mine

that I’ve begun to understand the distance between two points.

++ + ++ + ++ + ++


I think the is


“lovely is the rose”

is finally pushing back (most of



Skull-Etcher, if all this all around us echoes, it may as well echo us all. echo us all as.


goodbye etcher. goodbye. skull. goodbye cricket. goodbye skull. goodbye.



Jake Syersak received his MFA from the University of Arizona and is currently a PhD student in English and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia. He is the author of YIELD ARCHITECTURE (Burnside Review Press, 2018) and several chapbooks. His poems have appeared in Black Warrior Review, Colorado Review, Verse Daily, Omniverse, and elsewhere. He edits Cloud Rodeo, co-edits Radioactive Cloud, serves as a contributing editor for Letter Machine Editions, and co-curates the Yumfactory Reading Series in Athens, GA.

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