Such a dislike for transparence, he’d overdid
himself, monitoring caves. True enough,
he wanted a row of filaments inside like Times Square.
The sockets were dead. To live freely
presages danger in a democracy: major irony.
Such a gift he possessed of reading facial bones,
even in the dark. Hearts placed in a dream
over his city, each encounter an exercise in touch ups.
In every house, portraits abound. Last night,
he fell asleep listening to sad people sing.
Far Out West
We spoke Stalin and Amin to the point of tears,
a time when I thought cruelty explained
everything: Which of us asked for directions?
We longed for the painted eyelids of dowagers in Macy’s.
I coughed badly that month in stairwells.
Storm clouds passed over the curbs of my ribs.
I walked from gallery to gallery sampling various delicacies.
Canvasses of lemon tisane & I thought of you.
O, the allure of remorseful despots! & I thought of you.
I no longer want this weather on my breath.
Roof of the World
I live on the roof of the world among the aerial
simulacra of Things, among the faded: old tennis shoes,
vanished baseballs, heartbreak gritted with dirt. My mind
alights like lightning in a cloud. I’m networked
beholding electric wires and church spires.
I lean forward and peer at the suffering below—
Sartre said: man is condemned to be free.
I believe in the dead who claim to believe in me—
says, too, the missing and forgotten. Day darkens
on. I hear our prayers rising. I sing to you, now.
At the request of the publisher, we have removed most of this selection in advance of publication. To read all of these poems, please buy the book.
Major Jackson is the author of three collections of poetry: Holding Company (2010, Norton); Hoops (2006, Norton); and Leaving Saturn (2002, University of Georgia Press), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has published poems and essays in Agni, American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, Boston Review, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Poetry, Tin House, and other fine literary periodicals. He is a recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Whiting Writers’ Award and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. This spring, he is the Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence at Baruch College. He has taught in the graduate MFA programs at Columbia University and New York University. He lives in Burlington, Vermont, where he is the Richard Dennis Green and Gold Professor at University of Vermont. He serves as the Poetry Editor of the Harvard Review.