We stayed inside so long. The moss is calling us. The leaves, the little flickers — bow down. Major Jackson’s mesmerizing fifth collection, “The Absurd Man,” conveys profound physical presences: connection to earth and memory, a deepest need for embodied contact in this often ridiculously abstracted modern world. His lush language invites us into the exquisite realms here at our feet — or beyond that tree, there, in the cracks between the old stones. Take it in, be fed, feel close to something elemental again. Selected by Naomi Shihab Nye
The Body’s Uncontested Need to Devour: An Explanation
By Major Jackson
I am bathing again, burying my face
into the great nations of moss.
I am leaning in, smelling the emerald mountains
and the little inhabitants crossing
over rock-like boulders and tree trunks empired
bit by bit. My nose must come to them
like a probing spaceship causing a mighty eclipse.
They speak in whispers but do not shriek
when gazing into the dim landing bays
of my cavernous thoughts. I am grazing
like a Dionysian. I come not with religion.
I come yearning for first spring and a thirst for spores
pooling like mercenaries in the dark.
The little gods of the forest live here.
I want to ingest their verdant settlements
until they carpet my cavities and convert my raptorial
self into its own ecosystem, off into the green.
Naomi Shihab Nye is the Young People’s Poet Laureate of the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. Her latest book is “Cast Away,” from Greenwillow Books. Major Jackson’s latest collection of poems is “The Absurd Man” (W.W. Norton & Company, 2020). He is the poetry editor of The Harvard Review and University Distinguished Professor at the University of Vermont.
Illustration by R.O. Blechman.