2  poems by Major Jackson

Indian Song


Freddie Hubbard—s playing the cassette deck
Forty miles outside Hays and I've looked at
This Kansas sunset for three hours now,
Almost bristling as big rigs bounce and grumble
Along I-70. At this speed cornfields come
In splotches, murky yellows and greens abutting
The road's shoulder, the flat wealth of the nation whirring by.
It's a kind of ornamentation I've gotten used to—
As in a dream. Espaliered against the sky's blazing—
Cloud-luffs cascade lace-like darkening whole fields.
30,000 feet above someone is buttering a muffin.
Someone stares at a Skyphone, and momentarily—
A baby—s cry in pressurized air. Through double-paned squares
Someone squints: fields cross-hatched by asphalt-strips.
It is said Cézanne looked at a landscape so long he felt
As if his eyes were bleeding. No matter that. I'm heading west.
It's all so redolent, this wailing music, by my side
you fingering fields of light, sunflowers over earth,
 miles traveled, a patchwork of goodbyes.

--Major Jackson

Urban Renewal

ix. To Afaa Michael S. Weaver


Bless your gnarled hands, Sir, and their paternal blues.
Tonight Kala grazes a palm over a battered face,
feeling his new-born features in a Correctional zoo.
The shock is permanent like the caged primate
who suddenly detects he—s human. A Homo Erectus
stands upright on guard outside his cell.
For the record, good friend, tropes are brutal,
relentless, miraculous as a son—s birth. King Kong—s
memoir gets repeated on the evening news
like a horror flick, and everywhere dark men
are savagely ambushed. So, when a woman strolls
towards a homeless Bigger, the audience
tenses up involuntarily beneath a cone of light.
This is the work of blockbusters: Kala—s groan
twisting on a steel cot, and by morning—s sunlight,
your cramped hand. Pages pile to a tome
on a kitchen table; its defense is three-fifths
human, two-fifths man. I await its world premiere;
till then, when the soul hears of black guards who strike
harder, the brain goes arthritic, tropes proliferate,
and a wide screen blooms with images of heavy-weights
whose gloved-hands struggle to balance a pen.

--Major Jackson