Jack is raven-haired and sky eyed, Jack has lived more times more lives than the world has rivers and he is made of things that don't mesh well. Jack is a constellation of events and motifs. Jack is made of edges that scrape against each other and interlock like shattered glass taped together, never like puzzle pieces, never so neat.
Jack lives his life like a man in love with dying (because he is, he dances with death but he never gets the last dance) and Jack lives in fire and brimstone and is made of passion and an endless search for death (his or someone else's, it always works out).
If Jack were taken to pieces he would divide like this: yellow hair (like old bones) brown eyes (like the sweet earth that won't hold him) dreams the colour of gold and morality that bleaches grey (like the fog that fills his head and whispers this is ours, take it takeit, glory gold castle girl take it all).
Jack lives in the line between truth and madness between lies and reality. His skin is paler than snow, white as an old scar, soft as cotton spun clouds. His eyes are green like new forest leaves, like the twist of seaweed in a Selkie's hair and the madness in her supple arms. His suit is red and black and diamond shaped, blood and night, rubies and jet. Jack is Harlequin shaped and has lost his Columbine.
He is followed by the jinglejangle of bells as he moves as he says unpalatable truths only madmen and fools are willing to spit in a king's eye.
Jack is brown/black/red/fair haired, Jack's face is lean/round/boyish and old, Jack's eyes are shatterproof pieces of lives like the scales of a fish slapping against shingles, Jack is an old tale, a new tale, the best. Jack is a pauper, a prince, a pirate, a Cornish farmer's son. Jack is quick-witted, slow-minded, a wise man, a fool.
Jack is made of Jack.
Jack kills giants, Jack cheats men. Jack is in love with heroism, Jack is in love with magic, Jack is in love with fortune and fame, Jack is so often in love he no longer feels his heart skip a beat when a beautiful girl smiles his way.
Jack's heart is made of red (like the roses he has thrown so often to the unwary) and he is prone to ripping it out and laying it bloody and alive at a woman(a quest a glittering hoard)'s feet.
His dreams are of the cold weight of gold in his palms and the heat of glory in his head and the sweet victory of cunning under his breast. It's all painted behind his eyelids like a short poem of nonsensical words that mean everything.
Jack knows that there are lines between many things - between waking and dreaming, life and death, need and want, madness and sanity, love and hate.
Jack also knows that there are no lines at all.
Jack whispers secrets, Jack whispers malicious things that aren't real but might be true. Jack took lessons from the fox and the eagle and the oak -
(where art thou going, mr fox?
good morrow to you, jack of all trades, jack of all suits; I go to the farmer to take his fine fat duck to bring to my family and strip it to its bones.
if mr fox will teach me the arts of his cunning I will provide fine fat ducks apiece for each of your cubs.
a deal, jack of tricks, a deal.)
(hail, sir eagle, and well met.
good day, jackanape, jack-the-rags, speak your piece and be gone.
sir eagle, I have heard tell that you did once discourse with arthur, king that was, regarding the greatest evils man can do and feel. will you not speak to me?
are you a king, then, jack fool, to talk of wisdom to me?
I am not a king, but I am wise.
wise enough to know that I know nothing and you have much to teach.
well-played, jack of knaves; we will speak.)
(salutations, father oak,
I listen, jack-o'-lantern
father oak, gone are the men that understood the knowledge kept secret-safe in the heart of you. father oak, if you will whisper it to me, no axe will touch your flesh till jack is a dead man.
I speak, jack in the Green)
and knowledge of when to stand firm and bask in the light.
Jack is a Cornishman, lives in the chalkbone cliffs and wide blue seas of the old kingdom. The stones of Tintagel speak of Arthur, the Giant's Dance of Merlin, but Jack like Puck is in the land and older than them both.
Jack is a Scotsman, Jack walks where the bones of the world show through, and the heather spreads across the wide wide highlands like a kiss.
Jack is a German of the Black Forest, Jack speaks Grimm like an old tale and meets Death on the road.
Jack is an American with the Devil's Sack upon his back (won in a card game where every card Jack held was his namesake) and lazy to his untouched wholesome bones.
Jack is worldwide and worldold, Jack is the raven and the fox and every trick ever pulled by a man in the name of gold and glory.
Fe fi fo fum
Jack spreads his hand, a diamond a spade a heart and a club, all of them Jacks, stare up at his opponent with enigmatic smiles on their glossy painted faces.
(There's never been a deck he couldn't find himself all four whenever he liked.)
Jack can tread kingdoms in the sky, wriggle out of situations in a way a snake would admire, always have the right thing come to hand, and he will say it is because he is Jack.
For all his tricks and cunning, this is the truth – Jack is a lucky bastard son of a bitch. Lady Luck favours Jack for fortune is a fickle woman and Jack an even more fickle man.
Of course, he's not really a man any more than luck is a woman, but she kisses him nonetheless.
Jack has built his house of giant's bones, here Cormoran's thigh, there Blunderboar's shoulder, here Galigantus' wide ribs make the inner hall lofty and strong, here there a hip a shin a smooth skull piece; knucklebones and fingers for a roof crows love to perch on. If he keeps a cat to guard his malt he is unaware of it: he doesn't need to be upstaged.
In Jack's house there are wonders, in Jack's house adventurers come to borrow just as Jack stole his goods from Tom Thumb and fire-haired Loki, Jack with his cap of knowledge, shoes of swiftness, sword of sharpness and of course, the one thing more ancient than Jack, the cloak of invisibility.
Jack makes a tidy profit lending them to ogres (Jack has crossed the Giant's Causeway for more bones for his house) who have them stolen by heroes who have them stolen by Jack, who spirits them back to his house and laughs. They don't belong to him any more than the tales do but things revert and Jack is generic, Jack is oldyoungeveryman, Jack possesses them many times over so they must be Jack's.
Jack has a hen the lays golden eggs and still complains about the hardness of the earth beneath her feet. Jack has a harp that sings in the sweetest voice in the world but always sadly. Jack has a bull's horn that fills with food, a cloth he can order into giving a kingly spread, a candle stub that will light up any darkness and never grow shorter. Jack has a bag that can fit anything at all into its depths with a whickety whack get in my sack!
(in the grey shadows Death rests from time to time)
Jack has books that are leather-bound and smell faintly of blood, a library in which all the books of magic might be found, the words and rituals to summon and bind and dismiss and walk ways men weren't meant to walk.
Jack's coffers are filled with more gold than Croesus, Jack is piratical is draconic in his love for glitter and gleam.
(Speaking of dragons, Jack mourns their loss; their shared love of gold makes Jack envious of those heroes that were there first, and now he cannot carve dragons bones for an extension to his house.)
Be he alive or be he dead
Jack's wife was probably not called Jill, but the alliteration is nice and it's a name as good as any other. Her side of the bed is always cold, but she still has a side though he can't remember her voice her face her eyes her hair, only that he once had a wife.
She was round, he catches himself thinking on long nights, she was made of curves and soft flesh, to complement his hard lines and sharp angles. She liked fine food, she liked rich things and Jack couldn't afford to eat fat anyway.
He thinks he might have loved her, but Jack loves many things and it never lasts. So maybe he didn't, else why would he remember to keep her space beside him like an empty history?
(My love, he says, but never a name. My love, he says, but never I love you. Jack has honour, very little honour, only in this can he not lie. She is pretty and painted bright like the cards in his hands and still he cannot see her face.)
Jack never liked women anyway; adventure was his lover, mistress and wife.
Jack does not deal in contentment. Jack is like a dragon, always hungry for bigger for better for more, and what the dragon wants the dragon gets. Unlike real dragons there are no men that will wander by and think a prize of gold and girl enough – all these men and heroes are shadows of Jack; to kill him is to destroy themselves.
So Jack lives with mouth wide open and eats, eats, eats.
I'll grind his bones to make my bread
Jack is mad, mad as wild Myrddin (here's a riddle: merlin is to magic as jack is to) Jack sees the world through the prism of experience and wily stratagems, pulling tricks like plums out of pies, Jack dreams his dreams in goldsilverrainbowdeath.
Jack orchestrates death with horns and shovels and picks (hunter farmer miner, archetypes, always). Jack incites the two-headed to war and stands on their corpse with his arms spread wide in blood drenched clothes as if he fought for weeks for the victory of a single malicious whisper. Jack sleeps in the corners of room and watches as his foe crushes milk churns in place of his head. Jack slits his belly sideways and watches his guts tumble forth. Smiling at the enemy he invites him to do the same.
Jack with his belt that declares him Valiant is Judge and Jury and Executioner.
But not these days.
Jack be nimble, Jack be quick-
A flicker beneath his booted feet, the flame goes out. Jack frowns. A bad year then.
Jack jump over the candlestick.
The flame flickers, licks his bare-soled feet before he lands. It stays, dancing. Jack smiles. Luck favours him this year. He steps out, ready to play.
Jack dances with the Devil and matches his pace (sometimes Jack is not shortened, sometimes Jack is John and has magic in his hands and filth in his head and curses in his mouth, Jack loves to be anarchy made new).
Whatever his name he dances with the Devil and round and round they go like it'll never end and it doesn't.
These days Jack is a pirate with a mouth full of gold and a head full of sea and rum, Jack is a murderer with a taste for prostitutes, Jack is spring-heeled and misses the London smog, Jack is a man who can get anything done in twenty-four hours, Jack is trapped in a box on a spring, Jack is a joker (The Joker dancing rings round a bat-shaped silhouette because what's one more story to his vast tapestry?)
Jack is himself a collective noun but perhaps he might be a story of Jacks.
When the world was young, there was Jack with his nimble fingers with his quick stride, tracing frost across the brows of corpses. When the world is old there will be Jack.
Jack will be
Jack is King, Jack is King Nothing.