When Didi and Major Jackson read their poems on Sunday in the Gallery (5:30—don’t miss it!), I wonder if they will include the pair of love poems published in Aquifer: Florida Review Online in April: “The View From Up Here” (by Major) and “On Hawk Mountain, Vermont” (by Didi). I hope so, because I love them.
These two poems speak of mountains’ beauties, of loss, of fear, but mostly of love. Did Didi and Major write the poems separately and then compare them, to see how they each thought about love amid the Vermont landscape? No matter how alike or different the two poems are, it is obvious the poets are totally and completely in love; how can you not find that irresistible? But the poets have suffered, too, and maybe will suffer again, in this unpredictable, harsh world.
Major opens his poem with an image of peace:
At sunset winter mountains reach
across the page long as a look of love.
Didi also begins in unruffled serenity:
I am parting with the sun
that like a Greek oracle
descends the temple of mountains
Then, in a hint of disturbance, Didi writes:
The northern sky stands so straight,
it uses the largest pines for crutches
it bends under their weight.
Is the sky sick? Is it wounded? Is it not as perfect as we imagined?
Now, I’m going to quote the last two full paragraphs of Didi’s poem:
We have a friend who isn’t happy
I’m white. With him, though, the road
is just sampling the sound of the rain.
So my husband and I hold hands
as often as we can,
each finger erupting a new continent.
But in the early evening,
I worry that if pulled over,
when my husband lifts his empty hands
he is lifting only his blackness.
At this hour a chickadee cries
in staccato: dee dee dee, dee dee dee.
I wonder how it knows my name
before I look at our marriage
in the milky evening light.
Suddenly, full disruption—black/white and the complications and cruelties that combination causes in our society. But for Didi the questioning of her and Major’s relationship is only a sample, only a sound of rain, not the rain itself—insubstantial, not real. What is real, what is a cataclysmic new beginning, what is infinitely more powerful than the sound of rain is their love “erupting a new continent.”
The poem ends in delicacy again. Not with the sound of rain but with the sound of a chickadee, and the color of light—milky. Evening is dark and light, love is black and white, as delicate as a bird’s song, as indestructible and never-ending.