Angela Jackson

From Greenville, Mississippi and later raised in Chicago, Angela Jackson‘s poetry evinces southern and midwestern language influences. A member of Chicago’s Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC), Jackson’s work explores various aspects of the African-American experience and reflects her involvement in the Black Arts movement.

Winner of the Carl Sandburg Award for Poetry for her 1993 collection Dark Legs and Silk Kisses: The Beatitudes of the Spinners, Northwestern University Press has described her poems as a “deliberate reshaping of myth in the context of contemporary human experience.” As Jackson herself has said about the place of African-American poetic tradition in contemporary American poetry, “popular culture is no longer a barrage assaulting and insinuating its way into our psyches but mediated by an ever-present and ever-living cultural tradition and individual experience”.

Her published poetic works also include Voodoo/Love Magic (1974), The Greenville Club (chapbook) (1977), Solo in the Boxcar Third Floor RE (1985), The Man with the White Liver (1987), and All These Roads Be Luminous: Poems Selected and New (1997).

Poetry Center Reading:
Fall 1998

Practicing Patience

Think of country roads, dusk and dust.
Think of rivers, flat or wild.
Think of moonlight.
Things that last forever.

Think of quilting.
Think of washing greens.
Think of cleaning chitterlings
+++with your face turned away
+++wrinkled up in eager disgust.
+++Scrape the stink from the lining.
+++Scrape and pray the stink away.
Think of the curves on the rocking
chair.
Extend.
It is a circle.

Walk winding like a road.
Walk like a river.
Walk like the moonlight.
Walk however long you need for dust to
+++settle within you.
Walk forever.

Quilt.   Wash greens one leaf at a time.
Clean chitterlings, if you must. Scrape
inside the wrinkle of things.

Sit and rock to the edge of the runner.
Extend.   You are a circle.

From AND ALL THESE ROADS BE LUMINOUS (Northwestern University Press, 1998)

Bread

Woke up this morning with The Blues
all around my bed / Tried to eat
my breakfast / Blues all in my bread.
–Traditional Blues line

this is the moment between night train whistles.
bitter the end at the stair of notes.
the blue spaces in the spider’s Reconstruction
dream.
That’s how you live between paycheck and payment due.

+++Your mouth is a flat blue coin purse.
Breath-
less.
Lips spent kisses,
and tongue bankrupt
of bliss.
What air robbed you?

Every bone begs advocate.
Each rib needs a union.
At least conspiracy. Yet
for every sole
and palm-
a callus.

Last night trains whistled and pulled your last reserves
all aboard.

Your hair went on strike.
Nothing’s been right, but your right palm itching.
Then your
left.

You doing these luckless chores
and their children and children’s children.
Your hands roughened
by disappointment.
Trace the meaning of that word
in your palm if you will.
You asked for bread.
You could break your teeth on the song of what you got.

From AND ALL THESE ROADS BE LUMINOUS (Northwestern University Press,1998)

Faith

Longlegged boys leapt from rooftop to rooftop.
The dark between their legs widening as they spread.

We never questioned the quiet behind the house until the boys made
their legs scissors and cut it. What we thought could not be cut,
as it was made from the stones on the floor of the alley below,
the eaves above the garages that slanted, so standing there was an
art
and lifting off
a greater one.

They could have fallen, but they would not have fallen.
Gifted by heaven to lose gravity in the dark, gain grace
enough to make girls weep to follow, all of us, even looking up,
born anew in midair, no longer grievingly human, mute.
The wind in our mouths. each breath big, sweetened with amazement.

Once black boys, innocent as angels, leapt from rooftop to rooftop.
Full splits on a floor of dark air, each time a happy ending.
Isn’t that enough?

From AND ALL THESE ROADS BE LUMINOUS (Northwestern University Press, 1998)