Archive for July 2011

Is it true that sadness is thick and melancholy is thin?   Leave a comment

Is it true that sadness is thick and melancholy is thin?

From Pablo Neruda’s Book of Questions

it’s true that sorrow’s thick blanket

settles on shoulders

pushes into bones

as true as a girl’s thick braid

cut off as punishment

true as the thick-soled boot cracking the back

of the black beetle

thick as the dog shedding his last fur

onto her body

it’s true that melancholy lurks its thin sheaf

of self


unexpected where memories


the woman combing her hair

remembers father’s scissors

cutting, cutting her braid

melancholy wraps its coat

of hesitation,   asks

“are you enough?” “are you?”

then pulls it’s glum

coat tighter and say’s

“I’m thin. Not a thick blanket like sadness.

Constant ache or sharp pain what do you want

thick or thin? We both lick your bones clean.”

Mary Strong Jackson


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Two-Year-Old at the Festival


as if bubbles cover the ground

the way seeing a flock of bluebirds

lightens a path

so Astrid at the festival

in her green puffy dress

lifts the heat from the day


            Farmer’s Market

a dark brew and just the right bit of cream

colors my coffee smooth

an egg, potato, and green chile burrito

notes from cello, horn, guitar

float into the air

all who pass swallow music

inhale, exhale, their heels lift higher

some stop, move their shoulders, heads and hips

a toddler opens her mouth like a bird

accepts the bit of sweet bread her father places in her mouth

will she ever trust like this again

another teases his tired two year old

into buying connecting carrots that look like legs and hips

and dance to the music

makes a tiny tot grin

despite efforts to hold his pout

a wife reminds her old husband

that there is a step down just ahead

so many steps ahead so many steps behind

but for now just an old woman watching an old man

in this morning’s kindness

woven into the  air

making a cushion of time

Posted July 31, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

Laundromat masks and Dinosaurs   Leave a comment

Years ago my son Josh had a black t-shirt that had the words, “Leave me alone” on the front of it, and that’s just what I want to say to this man in Earl’s Laundromat

when he says,  “That degreaser is full of chemicals. You need to spray that outside. Think what it’s doing to your lungs.”

“It’s just a stain remover.” I say.

He walks out of the Laundromat to his van outside and comes in with a huge ventilator- gas-mask-like thing on his face. He’s probably right and we should all be wearing one, but I am tired and need to get the sweat stains removed from collars, get my clothes washed and not worry about all the chemicals that I’ve breathed over the years including smoke from our own Unit J recently and the mosquito repellant sprayed by the city down our small town streets every summer.

A few more people come in and spray their clothes with various chemicals. One lady calls her husband a jackass. Not sure if she is teasing or not.  The guy with the mask keeps it on except when he goes out to sit in his truck between loads.

The rug I wash comes completely apart, and I feel happy to throw it away and have one less thing to care for. I gather all the strips of rug I see and push the whole thing into the trashcan.  It seems that all my belongings just weigh me down. Maybe I should pack my clean clothes and my dogs, ask the guy where he purchased his apparatus and head down the road. Then I meet a nice woman named Sam at the Laundromat who says how hot she’s been this summer.

“Me, too. Between the heat outside and the hot flashes, I have two seconds of feeling cool around 4AM. I’ve never sweat so much in my life, and I have always been the one carrying a sweater with me in the summer because restaurants and theaters were too cold.”

I tell Sam my fire story and talk about my two dogs and how guilty I feel because they have no yard.

Sam says, “Santa Fe has tried to spit me out a couple of times but I can’t help but be enticed back. You’ll love it here this fall.”

Sam said, “I’ve never been so poor since moving to Santa Fe. I’ve left twice but am always drawn back here. I moved from New York and thought I wasn’t making enough money there, but it’s worse now. Times have changed.”

Sam goes on to say, “You’ve got a job, a partner, and a place to live. Sounds like you’re doing okay. You just need some beer and tequila.”

“Yeah, maybe you’re right.” I said and meant it.

I drive home, unload the clothes, and Ed and I leave to buy some groceries. The cashier at the grocery store explains to us how a Rottweiler attacked her mother. Remember that movie “Crash.” I seem to remember it being hot and crowded and everything was bad in one way or another. Ed and I  turn down the street where the green and purple Tyrannosaurus Rex sits on top of a building above the sign that says, “Pete’s Pets” and there is a car crashed into a pole. Another car had stopped, so I turned into a driveway to turn my car around, because the accident had blocked the road. As we were coming back onto the street we looked at the guy who had been driving the car and blood was running down his face.

“We need to see if he needs help.”

The driver saw us looking at him and yelled, “What, what are you lookin’ at?

“Do you need some help?” Ed said.

The injured man shook his head and said no and the lady with him said that she had called for help. The street he had been driving down was straight and there was no turn close to the pole, but there was his car smacked into the pole and smashed up good.

Are we on a movie set? The guy yelling at us, the blood covering his face, a purple and green dinosaur surveying the scene, the cashier talking about a Rottweiler attack, the man in the Laundromat with the big mask covering his face, and it’s hotter than hell outside, or maybe it’s just me.

Posted July 22, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

Santa Fe post #10 Where troubles melt like lemon drops   Leave a comment

Yesterday, I met a nice optometrist who examined my eyes. I asked if he was a native of Santa Fe and he told me that he was from Connecticut but has lived in Santa Fe for 50 years.

“I was on the city council when we were debating whether to add the second stop light in town back when Santa Fe was mostly the Plaza and Canyon Road. That’s the Santa Fe I loved, not now. But, still the mountains, the clean air, the museums are all here and that’s what I still love about this place.”

He saw that my previous doctors are in Nebraska.

“One of my common expressions comes from Nebraska or maybe it’s Kansas. I say, oh what is it I say when someone asks me how I am?”

The office worker said, “How are you, Doctor.”

“Fair to partly cloudy,” he said without missing beat.

Thursday night, we went to the Railyard Park and watched 150 artists from 49 countries process in their native garb through the park to music that changed to match each specific group’s country coming down from the gazebo-like stage and into an open area. I thought about how much my mother would enjoy watching this, the bright dress of men and women, the skin colors of every hue, and the welcome of Santa Feans to this international group. All appeared to be enjoying themselves, dancing and smiling. It seemed odd to feel so far away from my family who are living, but sense my dead mother to be close.


Friday was a difficult day at Unit J. No workmen showed up this week to begin repairs from the fire. Ed’s feeling that his plans are altered and not sure how to proceed. I’m still waiting to hear a start date for my new job, waiting for the new building’s completion and as I’ve heard many times in Santa Fe, “manana, manana”

mañana |mənˈyänə|


in the indefinite future (used to indicate procrastination) : the exhibition will be ready mañana.

ORIGIN Spanish, literally ‘tomorrow.’


The optometrist also said “manana” and told me that it could be two years before the building is ready. But it’s already been two years according to the woman who hired me. There are just a few things left to do on the building. Yikes, what if it is a month or two or more.

I visited the dog park with Brando and Tucker about 6:30PM on Friday. I like to hear the names of dogs,  “Here Chumley, C’mon Frankie, Good boy Oscar.” When we get down to the sandy arroyo that opens wide, it’s Brando’s sign to tear around in circles and entice Tucker to chase and wrestle. I love watching him do that after being stuck inside without even a good observation window. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains looked glorious in the early evening light and I felt myself relax. This place is a sanctuary for all of us, a place of freedom from worry, almost.  The great thing that happened at the dog park on this Friday in July was the bluebirds. Bluebirds have become a symbol of goodness and love for me. That’s a bit saccharine, but here’s some bluebird back-story before I tell of bluebirds at the dog.

My mother loved the “Wizard of Oz” movie and all the Oz books.  I watched the film more than once with her when I was a child. A few months before my mother died in March 2008, she promised to send me a sign of life after death if she could. We agreed that she would send me a bluebird. The day after her funeral I went to a local store to make copies of photos of mom to give them to my brothers and sister. While waiting for the photos to be copied, and feeling very sad and wishing I had not tried this so soon after her funeral, I heard a song playing overhead on the store’s sound system. The words I heard were “Somewhere, over the rainbow, bluebirds fly.” I smiled. I never hear this song played unless it’s when the movie is aired. Then a few days later, I put a disk in my CD player.  I had not listened to the entire new CD. It was a collection of duets by Ray Charles and other artists. I popped the disk in and Ray Charles sang, “Somewhere, over the rainbow, bluebirds fly.” I had not realized that song was on this disk. Wow! Bluebirds again from mom’s favorite movie. I returned to work a week later, and checked my email. A friend sent me photos of mama animals and their babies and the background music was “Somewhere, over the rainbow, bluebirds fly.” Unbelievable! I told the story of bluebirds to my brother who called me a few days later to say that he heard the song on the radio at his workplace. A few days after this, his girlfriend called him on the way to his house and said turn on your radio. Yes, the song was playing again! The first Christmas after she died, and the first Christmas that none of my children would be there on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, I was feeling sad and lonely. Ed had fallen near the woodpile and was relaxing with a pain pill on the couch. I ate a bowl of cereal and thought how much this day did not feel like the night before Christmas. I turned on the Free Speech TV channel and the program was on E.Y. Harburg the man who wrote, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and many other famous tunes including ‘Brother Can You Spare a Dime.” Harburg was a great activist songwriter in his day. Wow! Here I am missing my mother and another bluebird song connection.  I don’t know if I’m sending vibes out into the world at these times and I’m met with responses of the bluebird song from my mother’s favorite movie or if I’ve never noticed how often it’s played before, or if there is some power or god or afterlife. I don’t care. It’s a wonder and wonder is good.


Somewhere Over the Rainbow

music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg

 Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There’s a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh why can’t I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can’t I?

So Brando and Tucker and I are walking a trail at the Frank Ortiz dog park. I’m inhaling the scenery and they’re sniffing every thing in sight from roots, the back end of Chumley, to air just air when I see a bluebird. At first I thought it might be an Indigo Blue Bunting that I’d see once in the country in Nebraska, but that bird was the most vivid blue and this one was blue but not so vivid. I tried to follow it with my still highly dilated eyes in my seven year old, too-many-prescriptions-back sunglasses, but it disappeared quickly. Disappointed that I had not been able to follow it further, but smiling that I had seen it, I saw another and then four more. Standing there in awe, six more bluebirds fly over my head. Smiling and crying. Thanks, mom. You knew I needed a flock of bluebirds today. Whether my mother sent them, or not, my heart knows that intent is what matters and I know she would send me hundreds everyday, and maybe does if I take the time to notice, I just know her intent, and these bluebirds remind me of something that Ed Lowe told me long ago.  “Once you have your mother’s love, it never leaves you.” So chew me up world. I have something you cannot take.


What Awaits

She moves like a memory

the way water rubs itself

against rock walls

a flow and ebb

absolute marks on stone or flesh

her body lean and solid

across pink prairied sky

oil on canvas


Said she’d send a bluebird

to the plum tree outside my window

a sign of the life after


I’ll watch the window soon

with blue longings

and recall how she moved when old

and I’ll know how to become



Posted July 9, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

Santa Fe post #9 Fire, Ants, Dog/therapists   Leave a comment

Fire at Unit J. No one hurt. Now it seems that every other word I hear has some connotation of heat or fire. Fire ant bit me yesterday. Fires surround us here in New Mexico.

It rained hard today, finally, like hard tears held back too long with only a half hour to fall. The large splattering drops hit the windshield and continued for a while, not long enough for thirsty dry ground or skin hot from fires.

When I was little, I spent hours sweeping, clearing, building forts or remodeling old sheds. I loved the planning and the work of creating a space of my own. Today when I decided to make Unit J better after the fire and before repairs, because we need some order, I realized that I’d spent my childhood moving things around to build the next better fort. Like the day I saw those wooden crates stacked behind the Safeway store and hauled them home a few at a time to my house across the street. They made the nicest two walls outside my house where I placed them using two walls of my family’s house to make a four-wall enclosure. Then just when I was ready to design the inside of my new place, Safeway called my mother and said that I must return all the crates. Practice, I’ve been practicing for this fort building and re-building my whole life, so fire or not, I’ve got a job to do here along with my other favorite practice-jobs of childhood, which involved creating speeches to present to the city dog catcher (small town cop) about his appalling behavior. I practiced the speeches on my big black Labrador, T-Bone, who never criticized a word’s placement or selection while we sat outside pretending to fish the mud holes. Justice, dogs, words, and building forts that’s what I loved then and still do.

What seems a cyclic redundancy error (computer message on my screen) of moving problems etc. ad nauseam is just a full circle experience like beginning my after college work life as a rehabilitation worker for adults with mental illness and now I’ll be doing that job again in Santa Fe. It’s all poetry – connecting circles with words inside  – bits of life spelled out in images.

Posted July 9, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

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