“A hundred and fifty years ago two armies slaughtered themselves here.”
Nothing prepares us for this opening up into history, presumably the Civil War, and yet it reads as though inevitable. In his essay on Dante, Eliot assures us that "genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.”
They remind me of Nick Adams leaving the important things unspoken in “Big, Two-Hearted River,” the best thing Hemingway ever wrote Reflection of Cold Rivers
In the historical context of Bohemian Cold River and its symbolic Charter 77 or Antipodean Charter of 1992, Richard Jackson wrote a a soulful poem which everyone needs to hear “Everything All at Once.” Its thirty-four lines are plain-spoken and digressive almost like something coming out of information disclosure unit ....Jackson’s poem communicates a sense of something lost, something essential missing from the scheme of our existence ...
but he doesn’t know he’s dying—couldn’t know,
that is, the patience behind the sights he’s caught in.
The dignity of just being alive, the freedom of it.
So many sounds coming from the grass and the trees.
On the farm further past the woods, a finger of smoke
desperate for a word to contain it. A few dilapidated
clouds. We have come here following a map from
memory. The horizon refuses to go on. You can feel
the sun as it flees. How is it we feel the need to lose
what we love? There’s a star or a planet just starting
to shutter behind the leaves, as if to deny the darkness.
You can hear the buck knock its knees together
then urinate on them, rubbing it in, to attract whatever
doe is nearby. He won’t come into the field just yet.
How many times have we practiced our own deaths?
Our truths seem as packaged as these bales of hay.
A hundred and fifty years ago two armies slaughtered
themselves here. Maybe that is what the buck senses.
Far beyond that horizon a woman looks into the bomb
crater that was her home, the last word
in a sentence of many words. She could live on any map.
The early mapmakers created worlds that put them
at the center. One described the earth as a yolk
in an eggshell. Believe me, it is that delicate.
Aren’t our first words for what we don’t have
or have lost? Don’t we want everything all at once?
The light’s shredding. There’s still time to fire.
What is there to feel but the way sometimes we seem
safe and something in our own voice surprises us
as we sense we cared more than we expected. The buck
hides inside his own meaning. The silence of the hawk
just overhead seems to stop time. Some words are
wounds that do more damage than a shot that rings out.