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Resonance, Cover Image by Metka Krasovec, Slovenia

Ashland Poetry Press, January 2010

"It's true. Richard Jackson's 'underground river beneath the Nile is six times bigger.' many small rivers joined it (him) and empowered his voice. Yes, he does this to his peers. You, tender, wise, wounded, generous and responsible child, your melody is unmistakably yours. Have you eaten us? Do we flow too?"
--Tomaz Salamun

"Richard Jackson has become one of our most important poets. His subjects are those for which poetry originally came into being. The essentials are his songs, his precepts, his adoration, his companions. It isn't any simple solace he offers, but it's solace nonetheless that he lends us."
--James Tate

"What you find in Richard Jackson's great heart and spirit is poetry of generosity and fearless attention you won't find anywhere else. RESONANCE stops me in my tracks, it shifts my brianwaves."
--Dara Wier

"it is the combination of soulfulness, intellectual rigor, and a courtly, almost Petrarchan ardor for the beloved that has always fueled Richard Jackson's poetry. They are also poems of dazzling associative rigor -- funny, elegiac, and political by turns. I wish that more of our poets possessed his big heart and breadth, and RESONANCE is his best collection yet."
--David Wojahn


Can you believe what the eloquence of these asteroids
tells us? that we are thrown through space from one
explosion to another? How amazing any love has endured!
In spite of the fact that so many tendrils of hope
wither in the sun, in spite of the way the flower now
seems to feed on the bees, that the lake seems to shackle
the sky, that the roots pull down the tree, in spite of the fact
that the clouds drag the earth towards some new final solution.
It doesn’t matter where. There’s a whole alphabet of hate,
a syntax of torture we can hardly understand. Petrified
promises take the day by the hand and lead her off
into some jungle. A couple of cigarettes walk towards
the dark end of a pier. A child’s music shatters
like a broken violin. I used to think that any love we could
find is enough. It isn’t. It isn’t enough to plant our precious
gardens of hope in the sky. It isn’t enough to write
by the fading candle of our eyes. It isn’t enough to read
some future by the petals of the flower. Never enough.
We have to understand this love in the way the thorn defends it.
We can’t let the moon rest its drowsy head on our rooftops.
We have to capture every wayward flash on the night sky and
not let our words burn up in the atmosphere. We have to follow
wherever they were heading. Sometimes I think we are all
hurtling through love at the speed of light. Maybe it is a question
of what galaxy we will crash into. Even now, you have to hear
what the arrow says before it strikes. You have to know
I will follow you over rivers of stone, even while you hold
my heart in your fist, that every love is filled with guilt, every love
tries to conquer a new world. I think sometimes we breathe
through the pores of the earth. It’s the only way we know
the soul’s body. It’s the only way we can pass over the hobbled
roads of hate, the only way to shudder as the birds shudder
crossing the horizon. I am watching a bat scoop the emptiness
from the night, watching the hackberry embrace the moon.
Sometimes we have to hold hands with our own nightmares.
When I tell you that the voice of the nightingale turns dark
you have to understand what this love is trying to overcome,
you have to know that if you ever leave, if you ever disappear,
the sky would rip, and the stars would lose their way.


Sometimes I am just waiting for the road to get here.
Sometimes I think I exist in a parallel world, like this morning
on this certain September Sunday in New York City.
The way Confucius felt beginning his career as a corn inspector.
You just have to find something to occupy your time.
Like this story in the paper about fish: Grouper are
Born female and become male later on. Doesn’t that say
Something about our sexual confusion? Not mine, of course.
It’s like Tieresias who gets to do it one way, then another.
It’s the way they now say the universe bounces along
from one Big Bang to another. The whole theory
looks like the graffiti someone painted over on Bowery Street.
It doesn't matter because you can still hear the moon
rub its back against the stars. The meanings are
all caught in someone’s throat. A baby robin eats 14 feet
of earthworms in a day. That gets me wondering about—
well, I’m not sure, but if I wrote it in here it must be
important. Don’t you see? The windows are all borrowed.
I am listening to Kenny Burrell's jazz guitar as it slides into
each corner of the room. The air sags. Walls slump.
I wonder if Tomaz will be at supper after the reading.
Some people say he walks on air. Some say he has wings.
It has been a long time since I myself have walked on water.
He is probably dreaming about his favorite Tiepolo or Fra Angelico.
I prefer Caravaggio and all his victims he painted as saints and
prophets. He must have been the cloud hovering over them as
they begged for help. 300 million cells die in the body
every minute without anyone’s help. “Hang in there,”
Paul Watson said in the room the other day, but “hang”? and
From where? Not the sky that keeps wenching itself down
Closer and becomes my ceiling. That doesn't mean heaven is
any closer. Heaven is just a sin away goes the old Kendall’s song.
Or a whisper away goes another version. Who knows? No one
Knows what Jesus wrote in the dirt, either. Pica is
a disease where you eat dirt. Sexsomania is a disease where
you have sex while sleeping. This saves a lot of time.
All the clocks in Pulp Fiction are stuck at 4:20. Opossums
reign in the woods behind my house in Tennessee. They have
cloudy eyes and would be ferocious if they weren’t
so stupid, and realized how sharp their fangs and claws are.
The ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain. It resembles
The brains of wall street that shrink with every rumor.
An ostrich can kick you to death but you can fly further.
Not like my dog Maggie who is afraid of the wind.
If you have enough diversions, or a good spin doctor,
you don't have to face the truth. Hence, this poem.
And who would ever check what these things stand for like
The underground river beneath the Nile but is six times
bigger. To testify meant originally to swear by holding
your testicles. There are only two things I’ve made up
in this poem, but really, only the future can reveal them.
The future is the hawk I heard but couldn’t see high
in the trees harassed by crows defending their nests.
The past is a chain saw. There's no fear that cannot be
translated into a form of love. 21% of frogs in suburban CT.
have become hermaphrodites. They drink too much
herbicide, flame retardant and pesticides just like us.
Black Olives, those are my favorite. They are stars that have
burnt themselves out. Sometimes the streetlights are aligned
so you have two shadows. You have to watch the other one
so you don’t lose yourself. A Chimera is a person who has two
sets of DNA. I never know where my other self wanders
or what she says. Some of my students think I am Marvin Bell
but I don’t understand why they fail to see Marvin is really me.
A starfish can turn itself inside out and hide its own feelings.
What are these words but the shed skins of some snake
that has warmed itself all afternoon on a desert rock?
That’s Marvin who just took us to the desert, not me.
The sunlight that strikes the earth each moment there weighs
as much as an ocean liner. I wonder if Terri and Kari will
return before I have to leave. I'll just wait. At rest we generate
100 watts of electricity, but if we harnessed it we would be
victims of spontaneous combustion. There’s no reason
we can’t be in two places at once. Everything seems a memory
like boarded up store fronts. Just now, Kenny Burrell's
guitar is exploding before he mellows out into Soul Lament.
I can burn this CD for you. His music is like a photograph.
The world keeps sticking to his retina. Everything seems to stop.
When galaxies stop spinning they topple over like broken wheels.
These words are like Borneo frogs that have no lungs.
The emperor moth smells a female at 7 miles.
It always knows when the end is near. One wall of graffiti is
always painted over another. Maybe there is no end.
We could go on here forever. But now everyone has arrived.
It’s possible we’ll be late for the reading, but the poem has to
end, like a trash truck loaded with excuses, headed for the dump.