Marlin M. Jenkins


Once a day, or as needed

Marlin M. Jenkins

                                        After Tony! Toni! Toné!

Another day when washing hands
turns to jagged nail nicking
the skin—red suds. A day
when I wear the torn shirt
who has no business being out
in public but is comfortable.
Once, a day was a simple unit
of light and then absence, but
then: measurement, sundial, clock,
watch, despite my rhythms un-
circadian, a day now a place
where the sun’s light is captured
for its power as it clings to particles
of dying ozone. Once, a daily pill
to regulate the chemicals, then
the weaning, then the need—
the body at once desiring
its self-protective cycles and
deteriorating, inevitably, over time,
approaching a margin wherein
the cells will no longer regenerate;
and in the meantime once a day
I wake, drink water, hopefully eat,
listen to music: an immersion of timbre
and vibrations—ineffable and even that
still arranged, countable, syncopated
though made in and into measurement.

space break

Uncle Stanley Passed and I was not Jealous

How can I say it simply—
perhaps it took grief to re-teach
me the range of my feeling:
depression had held me numb
submerged in murky flood
but this sadness was a traceable
rain. Was a sanctuary calling me
to its altar only to pray, not to make
of myself a burnt offering. Reminded
me of how much feeling my body
could still hold. Uncle,

as I looked into your lost face
I found my father’s tiredness,
the brink of my bloody capacities
flushed of a whisky glow. I knew
that soon, across the street,
the family would share chicken and fish
and mac and cheese, and laughs,
and aunts and uncles would note
how much we’ve grown, which is
to say look how long you’ve remained
. How can I say it simply—

on a day since then I was dry-lipped
and gassy sitting next to another body
and had the simple thought:
what if she doesn’t like me?
instead of marlin look how broken
you are: even the air so ready
to leave you.
I recall
my therapist: how do you feel,
in simple terms? how does it feel

in your body? My legs hurt
because I went running
for the first time in months.
The water from the netti pot
gets stuck for a moment
and that feeling of drowning
does take me back to a flash
of what I won’t get into now, but
the water does not anchor me. The land

is filled with all these claws
ready to cut me—including my own—
but look at this body
that’s been doing its healing. Uncle,
remember me as this: a bird dips
its head into the water
for just a moment
then raises it up again. It flies off.
This time, it doesn’t even consider
staying under.

Marlin M. Jenkins was born and raised in Detroit and is the author of the poetry chapbook Capable Monsters (Bull City Press, 2020). A graduate of University of Michigan’s MFA in poetry, his work has found homes with Indiana Review, The Rumpus, Waxwing, Iowa Review, and New Poetry from the Midwest, among others. You can find him online at