Two Poems By Major Jackson

Haggadah

 
At night glowing from inside our mouths,

            a blue haze of flatscreens which we are,

 
ancient as the thickening forest of an edge

            where God swells and Jove breathes.

 
The crimson of dusk has long passed,

            and the moon is high over distant condos.

 
At this hour, each of us wobbly, in need

            of a little Steely Dan, some smooth jazz, and so

 
we listen for the agonized howl. For the story

            is the life, and the breath is the vessel, and

 
the vessel is an old wooden shoe setting sail

            from an attic where stories are stored.

 
What we keep hidden from ourselves

            are dark wonders of enclosed light. N is

 
For Night, the exodus, a trembling at a desk

            from which a mother leans into a lamp

 
that illumines a side of her face, her writing

            hand, her page and imagines a weave

 
from carnage she must fabric : “Noctes Progenies:

            Praefatio.” What she writes, “Stars must run

 
through your hair and shake like a sky

            until your heart’s an aura borealis.”

 
Occasionally, a train knows the graves it passes

            over. N is for Night, and our bodies

 
like bread we touch and pass recklessly

            to each other, shivers that become

 
tales of grief where the spirit has died,

            or a Bram of woe who knew all have

 
a Drac’ inside. For the story is the blood

            and the thickening forest holds us

 
like plots in nets of silver and gold

            dangling at the edge of lawns or in marble

 
columned lobbies where we live nice lives

            quiet while armies clash because

 
they’re right. So tell me

            child, “why is this night?”

 

Urban Renewal

 xxiv.

Here we are, high-tailing on a fast ferry
away from Perseus’s birthplace, away from those beaches
with names like Ganema, Sykamia, Megalo Livadi,
whose scythe-like coves left us speechless
and shockingly bold as we unpeeled our bathing suits
like human wrappers, and let pebbly sand stick
to our backs while the sun conducted its trade routes.
We ask: Why are we leaving again? Homesick
we are not, though we did wish Langston & Dylan
here, so as to astonish that we were the better
parents, and surely I cursed the island for its urchins
who fired missiles when my hand sought treasures
near their spiky planets. I understand now why
children and the dead are abandoned. Heaven is a cult
of the irrational. In my glazed-over eyes, your body
found an ally; I rubbed cream until the tumult
of our lives cured right on the spot. Now on deck,
an illness returns; paradise dwindles to a speck.