Major Jackson (anagram: Major Jack, son!) has been publishing award-winning verse since roughly the beginning of this century. He’s currently the Richard Dennis Green and Gold Professor at the U. of Vermont, which leads me to wonder if Richard Dennis has alternate last names, or if Richard Dennis wanted to fund a chaired professorship celebrating Robert Frost’s "Nothing Gold Can Stay," or if maybe Mr. Jackson is somehow a professor of environmental metallurgy? I think we can all agree that that’s a confusing chain of nouns and adjectives.
Of course, that’s how some people describe poetry.
Anyway, I looked at the nice tight rhyme scheme, and cultural allusions (high and low!) in this poem, and wondered if "Brooks" weren’t Gwendolyn Brooks, a godmother of sorts for African American poetry. -ed.
LETTER TO BROOKS: SPRING GARDEN
When you have forgotten (to bring into
Play that fragrant morsel of rhetoric,
Crisp as autumnal air), when you
Have forgotten, say, sunlit corners, brick
Full of skyline, rowhomes, smokestacks,
Billboards, littered rooftops & wondered
What bread wrappers reflect of our hunger,
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 Aileyesque drop,
When you have forgotten the meaningful bop,
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
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,
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.
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.
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.