Out of the house my mother steps,
Returned from the ride of her life,
Studies pavement cracks for half-empty vials,
Then looks back at bricked-over windows
As though what else mattered -
A family, a dinner, a car, nothing
But this happiness so hard to come by
Leaving Saturn by Major Jackson
Jackson is at his best evoking a teenager's view of the streets of Philadelphia - a view that includes basketball, blunts, cars, girls and angst, but also Sun Ra and The Roots, Joe Frazier and Sonia Sanchez. He also takes us to the cornfields of Kansas and small-town Alaska. Jackson seems to capture the here and now with disarming ease, but keeps pushing for a theory of history that will explain that here and now.
The book is divided into 4 sections and some are better than others. Virtually every poem in section 2 grabbed me, and Section 4 closes strong, but there are stretches of abstraction here that are less compelling. This is the first collection by a now recognized poet. It is clear that his earliest accomplishments were worthy of recognition. This is a volume that will bear re reading.