Reuben Jackson



long before nasa
thought negroes
worthy of exploring heavens
dark as we were once,

sara wilcox and
countless other sisters,

(legs crossed like stars in a

spent nearly every saturday
beneath moaning,
space helmet-sized dryers,

trying to straighten and perfect
that which was round and lovely as a planet

distant as the men upstate.



where do his eyes go
when he plays ballads?

higher than smoke
fogging the room,

cymbals which rustle god's earlobes
like kisses.

a friend swears there is a
skylight in his hat
where notes gather
before plunging toward the bell
of his tenor,

while ben gazes longingly
up the skirts of stars.

Kathy Keler
Double Moon
1997,15" x 15", oil and alkyd on wood panel
see more work by Kathy Keler




frank was fired from the el diablos
for inserting hendrix licks into their celebrated
james brown medley.

there was silence
as he bent to unplug his wah-wah pedal;

metal tongue banished from
their matching suits and
rote precision choreography.

one year later,
the ghetto was teeming with
posthumous interest.

frank's door was bruised from
all the knocking.

but that friday afternoon
the el diablos stood waiting
for his skyline of amps
to come down.



a bic lighter
cranked to the max

the tear-shaped flame
sparks a pipe

whose smoke surges
like young brothers

entering a theater
to watch john wayne

eliminate entire tribes
with a single bullet

before the box of raisinettes
opens like your eyes

when the pusher comes



more spots than a leopard
mother chided

hoisting each glass
to the light

an unconscious toast
to perfection


not that i didnt
get it

since i wanted
prayed for

michael jackson's
every onstage move
to be brilliant

as her handed down

when she purified them
for beverages

we could not drink



two bickering crows
on two separate branches
could be you and i.

as you gather strength--
i fade like autumn colors
when november comes.


Reuben Jackson, author of fingering the keys (Gut Punch Press, 1990), works as an archivist with the Smithsonian Institution's Duke Ellington Collection. He lives in Arlington, VA.

Published in Volume 3, Number 4, Fall 2002.


To read more by this author:
Reuben Jackson: The Wartime Issue

Reuben Jackson: It's Your Mug Anniversary Issue
Reuben Jackson: Langston Hughes Tribute Issue