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About this Poem 

“Several years ago, my wife and I traveled to Madrid and had mid-morning breakfast with the great poet Mark Strand, whom I had met on several occasions in New York City. Upon hearing we would be in town, he extended an invitation to dine at his favorite restaurant, The Embassy. Our conversation ranged from national healthcare to the poet-friends of his generation to his early aspirations as a painter and the upcoming exhibit of collages in a New York City gallery. Afterwards, we walked along a grand boulevard to a bookstore in Salamanca where he made suggestions of works of fiction. Despite his waning health, he was stately and quite generous. I was happy to send him the poem a year before his passing, which he enjoyed and responded with characteristic grace.”
Major Jackson


for Mark Strand

Beneath canopies of green, unionists marched doggedly
outside The Embassy. Their din was no match
for light lancing through leaves of madrone trees
lining the Paseo then flashing off glossy black Maybachs
skidding round a plaza like a monarch fleeing the paparazzi.
Your voice skipped and paused like a pencil.
Layers of morning pastries flaked gingerly
then fell, soft as vowels, on a china plate. One learns
to cherish the wizened reserve of old world manners,
two blotched hands making wings of a daily paper
beside us between sips of café con leche, a demeanor
in short gentle as grand edifices along this boulevard.
Yet Guernica is down the street, and some windshields
wear a sinister face, sometimes two. Think Goya. Just south
of here, on the lower slopes of the Sierras, fields
of olive groves braid the land like a Moorish head, but
those sultans were kicked out long ago. In the lobby
of the Hotel Urban, I wait for a cab, my obedient rolling bag
like a pet beside me.  I have loved again another city
but Madrid is yours: her caped olé’s, her bullish flag,
her glass pavilions and outdoor tables like a festival
of collaged laughter, our dark harbors finding level.

Copyright © 2015 by Major Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 7, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Copyright © 2015 by Major Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 7, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Major Jackson

Major Jackson

Major Jackson is the author of Roll Deep (W. W. Norton, 2015), Holding Company (W. W. Norton, 2010), Hoops (W. W. Norton, 2006), and Leaving Saturn (University of Georgia, 2002).

by this poet


(Poem on the Occasion of the Centenary of the National Park Service)

The pendulous branches of the Norway spruce slowly move
as though approving our gentle walk in Woodstock,
and the oak leaves yellowing this early morning
fall in the parking lot of Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller. 



Click the icon above to listen to this audio poem.


I have not disappeared.
The boulevard is full of my steps. The sky is
full of my thinking. An archbishop
prays for my soul, even though
we only met once, and even then, he was
busy waving at a congregation.
The ticking clocks in Vermont sway

back and forth as though sweeping