Jan. 14, 2012


by Marcus Jackson

Saving money the summer
before moving to New York,
I painted houses during days,
nights in a restaurant kitchen
hosing dishes, loading them
into a steel washer that gusted
steam until two a.m.
Once, when I came home,
my back and neck bidding for bed,
asleep on the couch laid dad.
Flicker from muted TV
was the room's lone light,
but I could see his face fine,
broad nose, thick cheeks
holding glow as he breathed.
In five hours I would wake,
ride in the crew truck
to the assigned site,
gallon buckets and stepladders
chattering over road bumps,
axels clanging
like prongs of a struck fork.
Still, I stood and stared
at dad, a man
who poured four years
into the Navy during war,
who worked worse
jobs for shorter pay than me,
whose hands have blackened
fixing cars that quit
no matter how many replaced parts.
Above our house, clouds
polished moon as they passed.
Dad wriggled,
body pain or threatening dreams.
What else could I do
but bend down slow
and touch once
my lips to his brown brow?

"Kiss" by Marcus Jackson, from Neighborhood Register. © Caravan Kerry Press, 2011. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

On this date in 1943, Franklin Roosevelt completed the first airplane journey by a sitting president. He needed to get to the Casablanca Conference in Morocco to discuss strategy with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. German U-boats were making sea travel too perilous, so his advisors agreed — somewhat reluctantly — that air travel was the best option. Roosevelt left Florida in a Boeing 314 Flying Boat. Nicknamed the Dixie Clipper, the 314 was a commercial, rather than a military, seaplane, and it was fitted out comfortably with beds and a lounge area.

They departed from Florida, and the journey took four days, due to frequent refueling stops. They flew from Trinidad to Brazil, then across the Atlantic to Gambia, and then on to Morocco. Roosevelt, 60 years old and somewhat frail, suffered some from the high altitude, and had to be given oxygen, but he was in good spirits. He celebrated his 61st birthday on the return journey, enjoying a birthday luncheon over Haiti.

Today is the birthday of Mary Robison (1949) (books by this author), born in Washington, D. C. She's the third of eight children, and growing up, the dinner conversation was boisterous and witty. "I grew up in a family of 10," she told an interviewer for BOMB, "You had to have, like, a burst appendix to get the floor. [. . .] My brothers and sisters are very quick, intense, brilliant, very sarcastic people. And they were always right there with you, right there, missing not one little throat clearing." The characters in her novels and stories tend to interrupt and correct each other, an artifact of those family dinners.

Her latest novel is One D.O.A. and One on the Way (2009), about a Hollywood location scout named Eve, and her husband Adam, who live in post-Katrina New Orleans. In the book, Eve says of New Orleans: "I'm not from here and I'll probably never get used to things, but I doubt if I'll ever leave. A rest might be an idea. There's too much eating. There's altogether too much sex, dancing, carousing, reveling. All of it goes on for far too long. There's powdered sugar dust on everything. There are twinkle lights burning every day of the year. Funerals, Jell-O shots, fishing, swearing, barbecues, back-door gigs, vats and vats of jambalaya. There are too many houses and sidewalks disappearing under weeds and vines and in yards that look impenetrable, too many neon signs, too much on-the-stoop drinking, corruption, and Technicolor clothes, too much Crawfish shucking, and Catholic everything, too much stale beer, too many heroin junkies shooting up on the balconies, too many big houses, and trees snapped off, too many steel billboards bent to the ground, too much andouille sausage, and second lines, too much money, and debauch, and cars parked all crooked."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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