Letter to Brooks: Spring Garden

By Major Jackson Major Jackson
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.

Source: Poetry (March 2006).

 Major  Jackson


Major Jackson's books of poems are Holding Company (2010, Norton) and Hoops (2006, Norton), both finalists for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature-Poetry, and Leaving Saturn (2002, University of Georgia Press), which was awarded the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for a first book of poems and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry. He is a recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award and has been . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Midlife, Family & Ancestors, Living, Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Youth, Relationships

Poetic Terms Epistle, Refrain, Rhymed Stanza, Imagery

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