Cave Canem: A Special Section
I heard the terrible laughter of termites deep inside a spray-painted wall on Sharswood. My first thought was that of Swiss cheese hardening on a counter at the American Diner. My second thought was that of the senator from Delaware on the senate floor. I was on my way to a life of bagging tiny mountains, selling poetry on the corners of North Philly, a pest to mothers & Christians. Hearing it too the cop behind me shoved me aside for he was an entomologist in a former lifetime & knew the many song structures of cicadas, bush crickets & fruit flies. He knew the complex courtship of bark beetles, how the male excavates a nuptial chamber & buries himself, his back end sticking out till a female sang a lyric of such intensity he squirmed like a Quaker & gave himself over to the quiet history of trees & ontology. All this he said while patting me down, slapping first my ribs, then sliding his palms along the sad, dark shell of my body. How lucky I was spread-eagled at 13, discovering the ruinous cry of insects as the night air flashed reds & blues, as a lone voice chirped & cracked over a radio; the city crumbling. We stood a second longer sharing the deafening hum of termites, back from their play & rest, till he swung suddenly my right arm then my left.
Major Jackson is a graduate of the creative writing program at the University of Oregon. His poems have previously appeared in American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Obsidian II, and Painted Bride Quarterly. He is the recipient of scholarships and fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, MacDowell Artist Colony, and Pew Fellowships in the Arts. Currently, he serves as Assistant Professor of English at Xavier University of Louisiana.