Poetry

Letter to Brooks: Spring Garden
By Major Jackson

1
When you have forgotten (to bring into
Play that fragrant morsel of rhetoric,
Crisp as autumnal air), when you
Have forgotten, say, sunlit corners, brick
Full of skyline, rowhomes, smokestacks,
Billboards, littered rooftops & wondered
What bread wrappers reflect of our hunger,

2
When you have forgotten wide-brimmed hats,
Sunday back-seat leather rides & church,
The doorlock like a silver cane, the broad backs
Swaying or the great moan deep churning,
& the shimmer flick of flat sticks, the lurch
Forward, skip, hands up Aileyesque drop,
When you have forgotten the meaningful bop,

3
Hustlers and their care-what-may, blasé
Ballet and flight, when you have forgotten
Scruffy yards, miniature escapes, the way
Laundry lines strung up sag like shortened
Smiles, when you have forgotten the Fish Man
Barking his catch in inches up the street
“I’ve got porgies. I’ve got trout. Feeesh

4
Man,” or his scoop and chain scale,
His belief in shad and amberjack; when
You have forgotten Ajax and tin pails,
Blue crystals frothing on marble front
Steps Saturday mornings, or the garden
Of old men playing checkers, the curbs
White-washed like two lines out to the burbs,

5
Or the hopscotch squares painted new
In the street, the pitter-patter of feet
Landing on rhymes. “How do you
Like the weather, girls? All in together, girls,
January, February, March, April…”
The jump ropes’ portentous looming,
Their great, aching love blooming.

6
When you have forgotten packs of grape-
Flavored Now & Laters, the squares
Of sugar flattening on the tongue, the elation
You felt reaching into the corner-store jar,
Grasping a handful of Blow Pops, candy bars
With names you didn’t recognize but came
To learn. All the turf battles. All the war games.

7
When you have forgotten popsicle stick
Races along the curb and hydrant fights,
Then, retrieve this letter from your stack
I’ve sent by clairvoyant post & read by light,
For it brought me as much longing and delight.
This week’s Father’s Day; I’ve a long ride to Philly.
I’ll give this to Gramps, then head to Black Lily

—from Hoops (W. W. Norton & Company, 2006

Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest
By B.H. Fairchild

In his fifth year the son, deep in the backseat
of his father’s Ford and the mysterium
of time, holds time in memory with words,
night, this night, on the way to a stalled rig south
of Kiowa Creek where the plains wind stacks
the skeletons of weeds on barbed-wire fences
and rattles the battered DeKalb sign to make
the child think of time in its passing, of death.

Cattle stare at flat-bed haulers gunning clumps
of black smoke and lugging damaged drill pipe
up the gullied, mud-hollowed road. Road, this
road. Roustabouts shouting from the crow’s nest
float like Ascension angels on a ring of lights.
Chokecherries gouge the purpled sky, cloudswags
running the moon under, and starlight
rains across the Ford’s blue hood. Blue, this blue.

Later, where black flies haunt the mud tank,
the boy walks along the pipe rack dragging
a stick across the hollow ends to make a kind
of music, and the creek throbs with frog songs,
locusts, the rasp of tree limbs blown and scattered.
The great horse people, his father, these sounds,
these shapes saved from time’s dark creek as the car
moves across the moving earth: world, this world.

—from Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower
Midwest (W. W. Norton & Company, 2003)

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