The mountains are at their theater again,
each ridge practicing an oration of scale and crest,
and the sails, performing glides across the lake, complain
for being out-shadowed despite their gracious
bows. Thirteen years in this state, what hasn’t occurred?
A cyclone in my spirit led to divorce, four books
gave darkness an echo of control, my slurred
hand finding steadiness by the prop of a page,
and God, my children whom I scarred! Pray they forgive.
My crimes felt mountainous, yet perspective
came with distance, and like those peaks, once keening
beneath biting ice, then felt resurrection in a vestige
of water, unfrozen, cascading and adding to the lake’s
depth, such have I come to gauge my own screaming.
The masts tip so far they appear to capsize, keeling
over where every father is a boat on water. The wakes
carry the memory of battles, and the Adirondacks
hold their measure. I am a tributary of something greater.
Copyright © 2016 by Major Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 4, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
for Mark Strand
Beneath canopies of green, unionists marched doggedly
outside The Embassy. Their din was no match
for light lancing through leaves of madrone trees
lining the Paseo then flashing off glossy black Maybachs
skidding round a plaza like a monarch fleeing the paparazzi.
Your voice skipped and paused like a pencil.
Layers of morning pastries flaked gingerly
then fell, soft as vowels, on a china plate. One learns
to cherish the wizened reserve of old world manners,
two blotched hands making wings of a daily paper
beside us between sips of café con leche, a demeanor
in short gentle as grand edifices along this boulevard.
Yet Guernica is down the street, and some windshields
wear a sinister face, sometimes two. Think Goya. Just south
of here, on the lower slopes of the Sierras, fields
of olive groves braid the land like a Moorish head, but
those sultans were kicked out long ago. In the lobby
of the Hotel Urban, I wait for a cab, my obedient rolling bag
like a pet beside me. I have loved again another city
but Madrid is yours: her caped olé’s, her bullish flag,
her glass pavilions and outdoor tables like a festival
of collaged laughter, our dark harbors finding level.
Copyright © 2015 by Major Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 7, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
in Aagam when father, a child then, picked
fresh walnuts with the mountain girls;
they showed him the fleshy green
skin over shell & nut he rubbed
on his lips & cheeks, giggling.
The girls circled around him, clapped
in unison & teased. In a hand mirror,
he saw himself stained pink,
a delicious trick that kept
its color a full week—
so long ago, in the
season of walnuts.
Copyright © 2022 by Zohra Saed. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 10, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.