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Jack

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I have become the smaller flag on a ship,
the shorter rafters of a roof, a knave
in a pack of cards. I wear a skimpy coat,
tall leather boot, and leather drinking flask.
I am captured in a child's game
and hit when grown men gamble.
I am what they call a tame ape.

I was a common man
whose job was to lift weight.
Mechanical devices that replaced
my muscles took my job and pay
and more—they took my human name.
And I, who used to pull
my master's boots, hoist meat
and turn the spit, work the roller
and the winch, climb the steeple,
strike the bell and connect lines
in telephone exchange, am a daw,
the tiniest of crows, gathering
loose sticks to nest in castle ruins.

The solace of six centuries—and still—
is once, on a high and windy hill,
beside a well that was clear and full,
I kissed a girl named Gylle.

Source: Poetry (Poetry)

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This poem originally appeared in the July 2001 issue of Poetry magazine

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Jack

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  • Poet and novelist Sara Backer was raised in Massachusetts and Oregon. She earned her BA from Oregon State University and MA from the University of California at Davis. She is the author of a novel, American Fuji (Penguin Putnam 2001), and a hybrid chapbook of poems and essays, Bicycle Lotus (Left Fork 2015), which won the 2015 Turtle Island Poetry Award. She received fellowships from the Norton Island Artist Residency Program and Djerassi Resident Artist Program, and has garnered Pushcart nomination for poems, essays, and short stories. After having lived in Costa Rica and Japan, she currently resides in New Hampshire.

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