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Jake Bailey

Sitting in a Dealership Sans Plate


I had to go to a dealership today because someone stole 

my license plate and the mount that held it. The holes 

drilled into the front are too wide set to do it myself. 

The cost of doing business with the gods of mischief. Me? 

I’m just glad they didn’t break in. That’s how we make 

the situation better: qualifiers. It’s bad, but not that bad. 

It’s bad, but it could be worse. I see it a lot in religion, 

especially orbiting around the waist of the Bible Belt. 

Don’t worry, they say, it isn’t great now, but in the next life, 

you’re set like a poltergeist haunting a mansion. All you 

have to do is subscribe to the tenets and pay your dues. 

Always a caveat or two. The people milling around 

the waiting room avoid eye contact, pupils darting, 

gnats pouring from summer’s mouth. People don’t seem 

to like looking into what they don’t know. I think we don’t 

like to be seen, at least not really seen, even when we run

into ourselves. Something about the eyes makes us naked, 

tending gardens sporting trees we can’t touch. 

It’s like a magic trick where the audience finds themselves 

somewhere else. Surprise, you’re 300 miles from where you started 

and the waver clearly stated that anything goes. I’m avoiding 

eye contact, too, pretending to carry out important work 

on my phone. Really, I’m just writing a poem to hide 

from their thoughts. If I leave the screen off, I’ll have to see 

a pair of irises staring back at me. That look 

like me the way a sketch artist tries to render the ineffable 

when language breaks down. It’s too hard to explain motivations, 

backstory, contextual elements of a caricature. It could be worse. 

I’ve seen a word turn into a black hole, swallow up entire persons. 

Maybe we’re right to be afraid. Maybe being seen makes us 

too concrete like a deer caught in light, like a man losing a child. 

If we could become children again, we’d run through fields together,

pick wildflowers that yellow our palms into paste. 

A clock goes one way the way a herd follows their footsteps 

to hide their numbers. If you hold onto a rope too long, it’ll burn 

your fingerprints off, but a neck can bear the weight 

for longer. Free will is only free until the body can’t hold 

any more stones. Until the mind sows a field of wildflowers 

trying to escape the absence of color. I grab a bunch 

and hunch over where I’ve been, following footsteps 

I’m sure are mine.

Jake Bailey.jpg

Jake Bailey is a schizotypal confessionalist with published or forthcoming work in Cream City Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Constellations, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Parentheses Journal, FlyPaper Magazine, The Laurel Review, Pidgeonholes, Barren Magazine and elsewhere.

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