Blindsided: Writing Prompt from TSP

Every Day Poems posted this photograph as a prompt on their facebook page.

by Joel E. Jacobson

It’s when I’m already running late
that I hit every light red,
that I get stuck behind
the only guy in the state
whose 10-under-the-speed-limit-
bumper-sticker message to me
is that I need to celebrate world peas,
Darwin fish eats Jesus fish,
I should wish for coexistence–

by the way
that irony
is not funny
to me

My one, true desire
is for you to get a flat tire,
pull over, and suffer
for your rush-hour sins
of being a hindrance.

Full of haste, I jerk the wheel
to fly around the hippy imbecile
when I hear the honk and squeal
and swerve back into my place in line.

My heart pounds like my mind did
moments before being blindsided
by the slap of flapping wings
in the face of judgement.

Fantine: A Poem

by Joel E. Jacobson

When Fantine falls
into the snow, incapable
of making herself
worthy of even the poorest
men, we pity her,
beg her not to sell
her teeth; then
we practically
kiss the feet
of Val Jean
when he swoops in
and snatches her
from the claws
of Javert.

When the harlot
falls before Jesus,
wipes away
the city muck
with her face,
we’ve already
judged and locked
her out–
and we already know
that Jesus
will forgive her
if we’ve been
reading along.

What we don’t know,
sitting at the dinner table
in awkward, interrupted
silence, is the aroma
of forgiveness, wafting
about her empty,
alabaster jar.


This is the final installment of the Storytellers project. Keep your eye out for the chapbook this fall!

Mosaic: A Poem


by Joel E. Jacobson

I am a wine glass,
melted down
gently blown
and etched
into a limited
edition of one.
Fill me
with the most
expensive wine
and throw me
against the wall.
Break me into
expensive dust
because I can’t
see God anyways.

I am a wall,
framed in
to look new,
to the eye
to the art
hanging from
drilled holes
and plastic
a sledge
in the middle
of my chest.
Rip down
my facade
bare my bones.
The builder
must have been
in putting me here.

When God is dead
to me, your cupped hands
bear me, a mosaic
of dust and shards
and nails soaked
in red wine, they
hold me
until I can stand,
until your hands
are full of holes.


“Mosaic” is part 8 of the Story tellers project.

What Comes of It: A Poem

What Comes of It–

by Joel E. Jacobson

“I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal footman hold my coat, and snicker
And in short, I was afraid.”

from T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”


Because 90 percent of me is drowning.
Because the remaining  ten percent bobs and gasps.
Because all of me worries–
like coarse sandpaper on a wood block
like zebra mussels anchored on a wood dock
like sour salt on a raw tongue–
when all I have to do is float in the current
like a lobster in warming water
or simply stand up and get out.
I am still what I–.


Over a hundred years, an oak tree
develops roots like a subway system
intertwined beneath city foundations.
Watered with change and pre-paid passes
civilization sprouts, scrapes intto the sky,
etches away the blue hues
and peels up fields like a worker
preparing an orange for lunch.

No oak can withstand the steel
stampede, the urban sprawl,
so it gets chopped from the top
down—an umbrella stripped to spire.
Chain the base. With the fire-power
of a big rig, rip it out. Don’t worry
about the treehouses or tire swings—
children need to grow up anyways.

Cut it down.
Is it, then,
still a tree?


Model Airplanes: caged in plastic molds
even a young child can hold
and crack apart, just to paste the halves
back together, differently.  The gobbed glue
and wrinkled decals beg for empathy
or pride and the entire thing is either a good
first try or a failure.  Whether it falls apart
or not (it happens over time: the paint chips,
the missiles fall off and sometimes a wing),
what comes of it—a dream or a man?


These pieces fit like painted
manikins and man-he-cants
filling wombs and elastic tombs
and entire tubes of sand-seconds
in between the bulbs of earth’s
hourglass. Maybe I can still muster fistfuls
of splintered hope, thread each one
into each sun, waiting for every
worry to become shallow and undone.


This is the seventh installment of the Storyteller project. Here are the other five: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Those familiar with my work will notice that this is not a new poem, but a major revision of an old one that needed (need?) work. Comments are always welcome!

From the Darkness: A Poem

From the Darkness

by Joel E. Jacobson

from the darkness
of snakes and statues

from the dim
reflection of Perseus’s mirror

from the spark
of sword on spine

a breath of joy
in lifting the bride’s veil

a rise of wings
like alto-stratus clouds

the Pegasus
unbridled and bright

a paradox purging the presence
and absence of shadow


I wrote this poem as part of my chapbook, “The Brightest Hour”, but it fits really nicely with today’s prompt at One Stop Poetry.

Knowing: A Poem


by Joel E. Jacobson

A boy walks down to the lake,
leaving the others, the talkers,
back in the echo of a dusty chapel. He
makes his way to the far side
where the embankment rises
several feet and sits down.
He fingers a small, rough rock,
comes to know its sharp edges
and gently flips it, counting the skips.

A man died this morning.
Not his dad, not the strong, gentle giant,
but a weak man, a sick man,
a shadow of a man
who refused to acknowledge
that he was dying, dead.
The dead man’s son was there
in the chapel when he got word
and drove home without really saying
goodbye. The rest of them sang songs, and
took communion, not really understanding God
on the morning a father died.

Another rock. Four, five, six…
A small trout flips from the water,
nips a bug, and dives back into
the shallow depths of the little camp lake.

There are only two types of fathers:
living and dead. Sure, there’s the drunkards,
the absent, the violent, the fill in the blank
but they’re a hollow existence in the eyes
of their children. It seems the good ones
die first, but find a way not to.

The dining hall bell rattles birds
from the trees, sharpness from morning’s chill.
The boy can hear the girls squawking–
small wonder the fish ever leapt at all.
He climbs to his feet, the dirt clinging
to his jeans, to his canvas shoes.
A small trail of pebbles plop
into the water. The boy
takes his time walking back
knowing a little more
than he understands.


This poem is part three of the Storytellers project. (Part 1, 2)

A Samaritan Woman Sitting at Jacob’s Well: A Poem

[EDITED: revised on 6/10]

A Samaritan Woman Sitting at Jacob’s Well

by Joel E. Jacobson

A puddle of water
looks like a muddy mess
until the breeze feathers
the surface
and, like a light touch
on a water glass,
leaves a  .

Speaking in metaphors,
bringing to light her secret
story of man after man after–

We too
often don’t know
the voice of God
until he has
passed us by, us
hiding in the dry
well of our own selves:

Eventually he says,
“I am he” but mostly
we see smudged prints
on the glasses
stacked in the sink
waiting to be washed.

There is water.
Look up from the dishes
and see the fields,
the thirsty hearts.


Our church is currently doing a sermon series titled Storytellers, which explores both the stories Jesus told and the stories that he lived. I’ve decided to write a response poem to each sermon, so below is a draft in response to the first sermon (direct link to mp3) which explores the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42). I will compile these poems into a chapbook at the end of the summer. Of course, this is a draft so I welcome any comments and feedback. As always, thanks for your time!