Jackson: O Archangel, O ’96 Triumph, O unfiltered
flame in hand. What was that joke you told the class
about the burning bush? The joke was bush & not
much more. The bad girls’ legs were smooth as coconut
candles. I dreamt of melted wax. I prayed for the nicotine
shadow of your Pentecost. You paced the stage in your
Levi’s, harness on, quoting Christopher Marlowe in
your Mississippi drawl. I was a clever rosary. You were
a layman’s interpretation of the Law. What happened
with those girls? You said they didn’t have fathers. Said
they needed you like God. Like I did, only I was strong.
That was the year I cared my father never called, the year
I fell in love & denied it. Who could I believe? So I tried
to recite your passionate shepherd’s plea, but my sheep
became goats & my goats caught fire & they began
to bleat louder, right through the house: no applause.
Backstage all summer: Kind of Blue. Like worried notes,
they badly burned out for you. O Jackson, thou art sick.
O Jackson, thou art gone. Jackson: your wife’s hair,
barley & rye, waving in the Coltrane—it doesn’t make
sense, but it does. She had a small, pretty mouth, an edge
of sarcasm & a kind face like a clock in the country.