On Disappearing

- 1968-

I have not disappeared.
The boulevard is full of my steps. The sky is
full of my thinking. An archbishop
prays for my soul, even though
we only met once, and even then, he was
busy waving at a congregation.
The ticking clocks in Vermont sway

back and forth as though sweeping
up my eyes and my tattoos and my metaphors,
and what comes up are the great paragraphs
of dust, which also carry motes
of my existence. I have not disappeared.
My wife quivers inside a kiss.
My pulse was given to her many times,

in many countries. The chunks of bread we dip
in olive oil is communion with our ancestors,
who also have not disappeared. Their delicate songs
I wear on my eyelids. Their smiles have
given me freedom which is a crater
I keep falling in. When I bite into the two halves
of an orange whose cross-section resembles my lungs,

a delta of juices burst down my chin, and like magic,
makes me appear to those who think I’ve
disappeared. It’s too bad war makes people
disappear like chess pieces, and that prisons
turn prisoners into movie endings. When I fade
into the mountains on a forest trail,
I still have not disappeared, even though its green facade
turns my arms and legs into branches of oak.
It is then I belong to a southerly wind,
which by now you have mistaken as me nodding back
and forth like a Hasid in prayer or a mother who has just
lost her son to gunfire in Detroit. I have not disappeared.

In my children, I see my bulging face
pressing further into the mysteries.

In a library in Tucson, on a plane above
Buenos Aires, on a field where nearby burns
a controlled fire, I am held by a professor,
a General, and a photographer.
One burns a finely wrapped cigar, then sniffs
the scented pages of my books, scouring
for the bitter smell of control.
I hold him in my mind like a chalice.
I have not disappeared. I swish the amber
hue of lager on my tongue and ponder the drilling
rigs in the Gulf of Alaska and all the oil-painted plovers.

When we talk about limits, we disappear.
In Jasper, TX you can disappear on a strip of gravel.

I am a shrug of a life in sacred language.
Right now: termites toil over a grave.
My mind is a ravine of yesterdays.
At a glance from across the room, I wear
September on my face,
which is eternal, and does not disappear
even if you close your eyes once and for all
simultaneously like two coffins.
 

More by Major Jackson

Letter to Brooks [Spring Garden]

          1.

When you have forgotten (to bring into 
   Play that fragrant morsel of rhetoric, 
Crisp as autumnal air), when you 
   Have forgotten, say, sun-lit 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 Ailey-esque 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.