Reuben Jackson



The salesclerk claimed
that the snow fell
with a New England accent.
I only knew that
the cords I bought from L.L. Bean
had not been purchased in vain,
And that here, no one fought
In order to snare the
Last roll of toilet paper
From an otherwise lonely shelf.
The latter was reason enough
To call my Southern kin—
Whose minds were likewise filled
With central casting notions
Of the world above Boston.
But the weather owned my eyes
Like the gazebo at the foot of Main Street ,
where I wept, waiting for Jimmy Stewart’s ghost



I. east montpelier

a tall, unshaved man
sidles up.
to his knowledge,
i am the first colored man
ever to attend
the annual thanksgiving
venison extravaganza.
welcome, he says,

cant speak for the others,
but im sure the deer
dont mind.

II. pilgrim's progress

whose father
would get drunk first?
would he be sober
by friday,
or drink until scotch
was an endangered
which house would
offer refuge
if they made it a foursome?
where could we sail
to be free?

III. facing the adirondacks

i stand before
the frozen lake
my breath a series
of short lived clouds
lord please
let me die here




A longtime colleague
Rushes into my office,
Sweating, to quote the
late Ralph J. Gleason
Like a grand jury witness.
The rumor, she pants—is true.
“Buyouts”—she whispers
as if the word was a wounded x-ray.
I want to remind her
that it’s not mandatory—
But suddenly I see my future:
Naked and willing as
my barber’s thoughts of Halle Berry.
No more pinstriped fiefdoms—
My boss’s voice
Present but fading.
Like a 20 year old hangover.
An endless drive on a crowded road.

Reuben Jackson has worked as an archivist with the Smithsonian Institution’s Duke Ellington Collection since 1989. His music reviews have been published in The Washington Post, Washington City Paper, All About Jazz, and Jazz Times, and on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered." He is an instructor at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD, and a regular contributor to “Metro Connection,” a weekly radio news magazine on WAMU-FM. His poems have published in 21 anthologies, The Jazz Journalists Association website, and in his book fingering the keys. Jackson’s “haiku” was set to music by the late saxophonist Steve Lacy. Jackson has been interviewed for series such as NPR’s “Making the Music,” for documentaries on The 1969 Woodstock Music Festival and pianist Ahmad Jamal, and has participated in symposia at The Experience Music Project, The International Association of Jazz Education, The Library of Congress, and at several Duke Ellington Conferences. He lives in Washington, DC.


Published in Volume 10:2, Spring 2009.


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Reuben Jackson: Wartime Issue
Reuben Jackson: Langston Hughes Tribute Issue