My dear and talented friend Jonathan has just published a chapbook of his poems.
Jonathan has a website where you find an announcement of the chapbook, two sample poems, and other related items.
[Update 7/9/05: Jonathan David Jackson's website is down; links to it removed for now.]
Jonathan and I attended the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars together eleven years ago. If he were still the same writer he was then, I could be nothing less than effusive about a chapbook of his work. But the two poems on his website suggest a marvelous expansion in his range, with all the meanings that can imply: range of reference, range of voice, range of mind . . . Now a big range could mean expansiveness with no center. But the two poems on Jonathan's site are to my way of thinking entirely within the range of the voices and minds of deeply realized and starkly individual dramatis personae. With Jonathan's permission, I leave you with one of the poems right here:
Directions to Burn
A child, especially
should not think of death or anything South
of chins and collarbones—only books and music, the kind
with strings. Questions should be answered. Fantasies unchecked.
You’re like a child. What do you know? Why would you possibly want
to go to a place that everyone condemns? But everyone wants everything—
even rich children are gigantic, blazing yet unburned. It’s the 80s.
How can you walk uncrushed among giants? You must go
where no one thinks to look. You have learned
how to do this at the free public library early in the evening,
raising your small voice to the gray attendant, Can you show me
the picture books about pharaohs? …the kings you have only seen
airbrushed in Ebony Magazines. Strange that the curled
old woman at the desk should not part her hair
to answer. So on your own you pull out
drawers brimming with yellowing
cards and squiggles. Everything
is on the second floor; then hot up the elevator,
where the biggest book smells sharp of glue and flipping
through you see him, the mummy prince doubled up to fit
in his shining sarcophagus, knees to chin, hands crossed over breasts,
robes swallowing him with snake-trellis and ivory clips. Directions
were never a problem in old Egypt. Priests planted anemone
by a sick woman’s house; kept whole petrified clans
in tombs of white origanum; cleaned everything
with scarabs; drew crisscrossing translucent
chalcedony, right to left, left to right, up, down,
inside, outside…soon you are asleep, wet
forehead between glossy pages
then the closing buzzer sounds. Face creased,
fingers numb, you hit the streets…You are not dreaming.
This is the nation’s capitol. Stuffed in corners around the library’s entrance
stand winter coats and rusty shopping carts—people so small you only see them
in the evening when the suits have left downtown.
It is at least a one-minute stroll to the bus stop through
the girlie shops, signs teasing, and on quarter
reel movie row, twelve glimmering
palaces say, girls girls girls—
Right now bulldozers clear
the area like there’s been a plague.
But years ago if you had to handle business
you took yourself there. The first time I went on a dare—100 bucks
in three hours. 15 years old. Boom box says, more, more, more—
you’ll remember all the songs when no one sings them anymore.
Boss men wait in Buicks in alleys for their girls. It’s the 80s.
It’s capital. Even shemale free agents, make 30, 40—
hell, I can pull 60 in two hours. Watch out
for the politicians on the late dinner hour.
I can turn a congressman
in his Town Car in five
and be back on
in time to meet
a creep who has the nerve to say, Come on & go with me
‘round the corner. You know the way.
Like that, m’ blade’s out, shining this close
to his pink eye. Let me introduce myself, I tell him,
nails along his arms.
I know what it takes—5 foot 6
but I’ll bring your head to your knees.
Now burn these directions.
You got what