Prisons of Presence

Jake Sheff


There was, of course, no questioning

The smell: the impact of sound waves

And heat on nostrils creates an olfactory

Dread on the reptile brain like mother’s

Perfume; I mean, memories beyond

Nostalgia, somehow the knowledge

Of No Return, but there you are, in it.

Then, there was the searching; palms

In sand and soot, or blood and ash,

Feeling for glasses, maybe, feeling

To know the world is intact, or at least

The ground. To find my footing, I tested

My urge to pretend my legs were

Carousels: well-oiled machines, beloved

By children and grownups alike, kept

In tip-top shape to provide the illusion

We’re all fond of: perpetual legs,

Conveying; a ride on the music of spheres.

There are some stumps, and questions

That stump everybody, but not these

Stumps. And I sidestep around them,

Stuporous in all my experiences, before

And after, to be so incredibly present

My name and age are on pages in books

Still burning, my sex and race are layers

Of skin still sloughing, always about to

Lift like a veil and flit about, like valor. 


Jake Sheff is a captain and pediatrician in the US Air Force, married to a Corri whom he produced a modern Maddie with. They, in turn, were adopted by four animals. Home is currently S. California. Poems of Jake’s are in Marathon Literary Review, Poydra’s Review, Foliate Oak, and elsewhere. A chapbook of his was published: Looting Versailles (Alabaster Leaves Publishing). He considers life an impossible sit-up, but plausible.