Poem of the Week, by Major Jackson

IMG_4221Walking Man was someone I first noticed many years ago because he walked as fast as me (apparently I walk with great purpose), and he seemed to walk all day long, every day of the year, tromping the lakes and streets of our southwest Minneapolis neighborhood. He was a strong, well-built, handsome man. In summer he wore shorts and a t-shirt, in winter jeans and a parka. One time only has Walking Man returned my hello; his eyes are usually fixed on a far horizon. Once, about fifteen years in, I passed a man sitting on a bench on Lake Calhoun and did a double-take. Was that Walking Man? Sitting? Yes. The first time I ever saw him not in motion. Two days ago an old man in jeans and a t-shirt came toward me on Lake Street: extreme bowlegs, a mane of flowing white hair, a rocking gait that hurt to witness, so painful did it look. I watched that old man lurch toward me, hoped he didn’t have far to walk, wondered if I could help. Then I realized who it was.

How to Listen
     – Major Jackson

I am going to cock my head tonight like a dog
in front of McGlinchy’s Tavern on Locust;
I am going to stand beside the man who works all day combing
his thatch of gray hair corkscrewed in every direction.
I am going to pay attention to our lives
unraveling between the forks of his fine-tooth comb.
For once, we won’t talk about the end of the world
or Vietnam or his exquisite paper shoes.
For once, I am going to ignore the profanity and
the dancing and the jukebox so I can hear his head crackle
beneath the sky’s stretch of faint stars.

 

For more information on Major Jackson, please click here.

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