I heard on the radio about a career in photonics

so I did research, and it involves quantum physics

and light manipulation. NPR made it seem like

the simplest shit ever, that if you were good with

your hands you could master it. As a freshman in

high school numbers were jumbled in pre-algebra.

I was the weakest link of the Academic Challenge

team, sitting on the sidelines during the matches.

When does one need an alternate in a trivia

extracurricular? Does someone squint their

brain too hard and need a breather? I’m trying to

figure it out. I coasted through college on a 3.0

because I was expected to go. And one time

the alumni “giving” center called and asked me

for a donation when I lived in my car in California.

I told them I was sleeping by the beaches, eating

canned beans and tuna. They said they were sorry

but could I please spare a twenty? They couldn’t.



James Croal Jackson (he/him) is a Filipino-American poet who works in film production. He has two chapbooks (Our Past Leaves, Kelsay Books, 2021 and The Frayed Edge of Memory, Writing Knights, 2017) with one forthcoming: Count Seeds With Me (Ethel, 2022). He edits The Mantle Poetry from Pittsburgh, PA. (