Published on Academy of American Poets (

Improvisation on Them

He courts her with Soir de Paris & braids myths in her hair.

To hear time how they need it to be is the sound of dare.

His soft-burred tenor soaks her like grapes in wild yeast.

A beautiful loser, she takes pleasure in being incomplete.

He draws tears from grown men when he plucks his box.

She is reckless, never trained, so much a wound clock.

They move like movement in a still life picture.

She sings behind the beat and leans into the future.

Stepping out of sequence as though they’ve just begun.

Then again, the start moves back, depending on the run.


Copyright © 2018 by Linda Susan Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 18, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I was listening to Coltrane’s version of ‘My Favorite Things,’ and I began to imagine that like great musicians, we improvise—in relationships, through life, and in our writing. Time goes by, the writing goes on; we take risks, and, hopefully, we can recover from our mistakes. We start again, making it all seem effortless yet remarkable at the same time. At least, what I want this poem to suggest is that moments of improvisation can hold all the meaning, memory, and music, as well as a little magic.”
—Linda Susan Jackson


Linda Susan Jackson

Linda Susan Jackson is the author of Truth Be Told, forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2023, and What Yellow Sounds Like (Tia Chucha Press, 2007), which was a finalist for the National Poetry Series and the Paterson Poetry Prize.

Date Published: 2018-04-18

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