“You, Reader” by Major Jackson

Here’s a good one from Major Jackson, whom some of you will remember from the flame-lit days of the Black Arts Movement. He, like many of us, is a much better poet now, writing free, unconstrained  by the imperative of those years to make every poem about Blackness.

I’m a big fan of free association. I think that if I were around a century ago, I would have been a Surrealist poet, stretching to assemble the far reaches of my imagination into bodies of words that are organically connected by the part of the brain (I forget its name) that manufactures dreams.

You gotta have serious skills to make this work; without them a poem like this would fall apart, disintegrate, dis-integrate, into separate images. But the first line books our synapses on the flight, & the second lets us know that the poem is wide-open. By the third we’re imagining moose transgressions, & so on through the naming of the “dirt roads that dead-end / at the Cubist sculpture called My Infinity…” There’s a personal message to someone in the declaration that the poet “…no longer light[s] bonfires in the city of adulterers…” or “…smudge[s] the cheeks of debutantes hurriedly floating across the high fruit of night”. The last four lines are perfect conclusion, especially as he invites us, the readers, “hidden behind a spray / of night-blooming cereus…” “to sweep a chalk of light over distant stars.”

I love this poem; just swing with it & don’t try to make it make rational sense. The sense that it makes is irrational, the best kind.


From the The Paris Review – Daily Poem:

You, Reader”
by Major Jackson
Issue no. 218 (Fall 2016)

So often I dream of the secrets of satellites, 
and so often I want the moose to step 
from the shadows and reveal his transgressions, 
and so often I come to her body                 
as though she were Lookout Mountain, 
but give me a farmer’s market to park my martyred masks
and I will name all the dirt roads that dead-end
at the Cubist sculpture called My Infinity,
for I no longer light bonfires in the city of adulterers
and no longer smudge the cheeks of debutantes
hurriedly floating across the high fruit of night,
and yes, I know there is only one notable death in any small town
and that is the pig farmer, but listen, at all times
the proud rivers mourn my absence, especially 
when, like a full moon, you, reader, hidden behind a spray 
of night-blooming cereus, drift in and out of scattered clouds
above lighthouses producing their artificial calm,
just to sweep a chalk of light over distant waters.

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