Gary Jackson


I started taking walks again

to have a reason to leave the house

and shake off the blues of being

stuck indoors with a woman I love

but can’t touch without thinking

this is as good as it’s gonna get

while the world outside dies slowly

and knows it. I started listening

to podcasts again because I needed

to listen to people talk about

something (anything), even though

it annoys me to listen to people

who are smarter than me, or worse —

think they’re smarter than me.

Outside it’s so hot, I peel out

of my hoodie like Janet Jackson

singing “I Get So Lonely.” On the podcast

they’re debating artifacts to preserve

for after the apocalypse, referencing

cold war fears & atomic nightmares,

all of which seems quaint today,

but I get it — coming at the present sideways

in order to catch some glimmer

of insight when it’s not looking.

The Declaration of Independence

& The Bill of Rights are the usual

artifacts that folks agree to preserve

or burn. There are a few curveballs,

but only one hits me when I’m halfway

home, so I forget all about it

because there’s still so much time

to waste listening to people talk,

while keeping one ear open to pick

up on the random pickup truck

that may be coming my way

full of white men geared for violence.

It’s not until several days later

that I remember to look up

Mahalia Jackson’s rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer”

at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.

When I finally watch her perform,

I recall what the podcast said —

how the video captures the crowd

of white and black faces caught

in the dark, quiet as stone,

as they bend to Mahalia’s voice

turning prayer into blues, strong

enough to make me believe

that everything might be alright.

But I’d make a poor guide —

since after the applause, I’m back

to believing when we’re all dust,

that the real miracle will be

if anyone’s around to open

the vault of artifacts and hear her

sing. If only we listened now,

and not in some distant future

where we’re all dead and gone,

hoping the next civilization fares

better than this one.


about the author