Our hot air balloon / turned into a lead ball. ⁠—Marjana Savka, Ukrainian poet

They look like a virus you’d see under a microscope.

A city flattened by artillery.

A bubble with a galaxy inside it, an amorphous shroud.

Not unlike the bubbles a child blows waiting in line for bread.

Undulating as if in waves towards an absent shore.

Carrying the driftwood of space and time.

Only seeing what the radio telescope writes on film.

Like what is hidden in the pictures from Mariupol

Beyond me, waves of forest sounds I can’t decipher.

The sky netted in the top branches.

The moles, even, afraid to show themselves for the cat.

The sun rises, scraping the top of the ridgeline.

What it sees: the 18-month-old girl, head blown open by shrapnel.

A forest of excuses. A land too far.

The smell of the fox the hunter skinned and abandoned.

The burning stumps loggers leave.

You can’t make the days follow your calendar, or
the streets follow your maps.

You can tell each country by its color.

“A country, a puddle on the map.” (Lyudmyla Khersonska)

16-year-old Iliya, whose legs were sheared off during a soccer game.

These names fall in like mortar rounds.

The wind here tonight, as if the trees were screaming.

The animal paths written through brambles.

Time drifts away in smoke.

Someone’s pajamas with cartoon unicorns in the ruins.

Each line a radio wave, a bomb’s shock wave.

Even the sky looks metallic, its stars aiming at us.

The scalloped clouds above me appearing as flack puffs.

In Mariupol they can hear the missiles overhead.

The vapor trails linger longer than their bombs.

The coyote the other day carried some small creature
in its jaws.

Just some scattered white fur after the owl dove in.

Dogs scavenging. A maternity ward become a morgue.

Death, the empty parentheses.

The empty web quivering along the trail yesterday.

Nouns with betraying modifiers.

To erase the names on the maps, to clear-cut the lives.

Now we know: Cambrian trilobites ate each other.

Twenty three species went extinct last year. We aren't
yet among them.

“A world where we once lived has left us words.” (Serhiy Zhadan)

ORCS are either eating or being eaten by galaxies like ours.

Who beyond the cosmos is watching us?

The freeze fog here has crumpled the day lilies.

The oak that fell last year is riddled with insect holes.

Kudzu is strangling our trees.

The raccoons are at the garbage. There is no food in Mariupol.

In the theater, pieces of children scattered among the dead.

“The building just folded in on itself.” A black hole.

Here, at least, the clouds can escape over the ridgeline.

ORCS are one billion light years away, further than
the Black Hole that will someday consume us.

How long does it take to consume a city?

What species does not kill its own to live?  To rule?

The answers open like craters.

The last mass extinction was only the fifth to date.

Today the doomsday clock is set at under two minutes,

A disease looking for any opening.

Hearts with nothing left to pump

Someone mentioned that roots dig downwards to escape us.

The moon slowly eaten by its own shadow.

In all this, a few birds create their own space to fly through.

In the child’s drawing they look like angels.

A man with a wheelbarrow carrying away his life.

The whole city still giving birth to prayers.

Mariupol means the city of Mary.

Shrouds of smoke. Hope hides in the underbrush.

This litany of salvaged images.

How seldom we decipher the signals from our own words.

A city crumples like a map in a commander’s hand.

The day ends like a burnt-out car.

Editor’s Note

Making sense of the modern world involves facing it, stripping it bare of pretense and understanding the web of links that binds us underneath all that hardship. In “Odd Radio Circles”, Jackson views the world through both satellite and microscope, binding the macro and micro and tracing the paths from ourselves to the fractures in our humanity because it is not until we’ve driven our knuckles to the foundation that we can hope to clear enough to build anew.