Major Jackson

from Urban Renewal: xvii.

What of my fourth grade teacher at Reynolds Elementary,
who weary after failed attempts to set to memory
names strange and meaningless as grains of dirt around
the mouthless, mountain caves at Bahrain Karai:
Tarik, Shanequa, Amari, Aisha, nicknamed the entire class
after French painters whether boy or girl. Behold
the beginning of sentient formless life. And so,
my best friend Darnell became Marcel, and Tee-tee
was Braque, and Stacy James was Fragonard,
and I, Eduard Charlemont. The time has come to look
at these signs from other points of view. Days passed
in inactivity before I corrected her, for Eduard was
Austrian and painted the black chief in a palace in 1878
to the question whether intelligence exists. All of Europe
swooned to Venus of Willendorf. Outside her tongue,
yet of it, in textbooks Herodotus tells us of the legend
of Sewosret, Egyptian, colonizer of Greece,
founder of Athens. What’s in a name? Sagas rise and
fall in the orbs of jumpropes, Hannibal grasps a Roman
monkeybar on history’s rung, and the mighty heroes at recess
lay dead in woe on the imagined battlefields of HALO.



"xvii." from "Urban Renewal" first appeared in Provincetown Arts. It has also appeared on Poetry Daily, in Pushcart Prize XXIX, Best of the Small Presses, and Best American Poetry 2005.