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.
were crude assemblages of paper sacks and twine,
amalgams of pilfered string and whittled sticks,
twigs pulled straight from his garden, dry patch
of stony land before our house only he
could tend into beauty, thorny roses goaded
into color. How did he make those makeshift
diamonds rise, grab ahold of the wind to sail
into sky like nothing in our neighborhood
of dented cars and stolid brick houses could?
It wasn’t through faith or belief in otherworldly
grace, but rather a metaphor from moving
on a street where cars rusted up on blocks,
monstrously immobile, and planes, bound
for that world we could not see, roared
above our heads, our houses pawns
in a bigger flight path. How tricky the launch
into air, the wait for the right eddy to lift
our homemade contraption into the sullen
blue sky above us, our eyes stinging
with the glut of the sun. And the sad tangle
after flight, collapse of grocery bags
and broken branches, snaggle of string
I still cannot unfurl. Father, you left me
with this unsated need to find the most
delicately useful of breezes, to send
myself into the untenable, balance my weight
as if on paper wings, a flutter then fall,
a stutter back to earth, an elastic sense
of being and becoming forged in our front
yard, your hand over mine over balled string.
From My Father's Kites (Steel Toe Books, 2010). Copyright © 2010 by Allison Joseph. Used with the permission of the author.