Major Jackson, “Roof of the World”


I live on the roof of the world among the aerial
simulacra of Things, among the faded: old tennis shoes,
vanished baseballs, heartbreak gritted with dirt. My mind
flickers like lightning in a cloud. I’m networked
beholding electric wires and church spires.
I lean forward and peer at the suffering below—
Sartre said: man is condemned to be free.
I believe in the dead who claim to believe in me—
says, too, the missing and forgotten. Day darkens
on. I hear our prayers rising. I sing to you, now.

The poems in Holding Company, the third collection from Major Jackson, share the formal bond of a ten-line structure—because, he told Identity Theory, “I wanted to teach myself how to create an exalted utterance in a poem, how to create something that was emotionally heartrending, that did not need a lot of scaffolding. I wanted to go in a new direction and allow that compression to sing the poem’s themes louder, sing emotive declarations by shrinking it further.” Sometimes there are other interesting connections between the poems; the last line of “Roof of the World,” for example, will turn up again in “Forecast” (from Poetry Out Loud), and another line from that poem finds its way into “White Power.”

Other poems in Holding Company include “Here the Sea,” “At the Club,” and “Maithuna” (all from Salt Magazine) and three other poems that inspired short animated films: “Leave It All Up to Me,” “Zucchini,” and “Migration.”

27 September 2010 | poetry |