University of Southern Indiana


Richard Jackson

-for Sebastian, after the wreck



A few deer pause inside the rain, more gauze
than rain, and hear with their eyes the no-sound
we make. Darkness starts to collect the darkness
and sprinkles it among the deadfall behind them.
And behind that, a ravine filled with rusting washers
and waiting stories.
                          Clouds hide the tumult
inside them.
                   I don’t even know what I was
               It is not hard to imagine how quickly
we’ll be forgotten. What endures is the idea we can
endure. We hang these stories on a few fragile
branches of memory.
                              This is where you are
supposed to be addressed with allusions to
the particulars.
                 We are alive because each of us
owns a word we keep trying to pronounce.
I must go in, the fog is rising, Dickinson said
before being “called home.” You’d think the rain
might mend a bruised heart. We can’t even complete
the sentences of our lives.
                                     Now the deer disappear
and leave behind instructions for later, their trails
almost imperceptible. The rain thins so it can return
later to the clouds. It is hard to tell whether it is
mist or fog. Or the collecting gray. Or mere distance. 

Not until there is that single word that reaches deep
into our lungs and pulls out the last, enduring breath.

Richard Jackson is the author of ten books of poems, most recently Resonance (Ashland, 2010), Half Lives: Petrarchan Poems(Autumn House, 2004), and Unauthorized Autobiography: New and Selected Poems (Ashland Poetry Press, 2003). His own poems have been translated into a dozen languages, and he has edited two anthologies of Slovene poetry: The Fire Under the Moon and Double Vision: Four Slovenian Poets. Jackson is also the author of a book of criticism, Dismantling Time in Contemporary American Poetry(Agee Prize), and Acts of Mind: Interviews With Contemporary American Poets(Choice Award). His several dozen essays and reviews have appeared in Georgia Review, Verse, Contemporary Literature, Boundary 2, Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, and numerous other journals, as well as anthologies such as The Planet on the Table: Writers Reading (2003) and John Ashbery (ed. Harold Bloom, 2004). In 2000 he was awarded the Order of Freedom Medal for literary and humanitarian work in the Balkans by the President of Slovenia and has received Guggenheim, NEA, NEH, two Witter-Bynner and Fulbright Fellowships, and five Pushcart Prizes.


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