Author Archive

New Mexico Day Trip   Leave a comment

Dead pine branches with long rust-colored

needles stuffed around the tires

a metal dog dish closest something to a shovel

digs through snow

spinning tires throw mud on eyebrows

and cheeks         dogs with long faces

judge human nonsense


tires leave dark gouges in a once unmarked

expanse of white        unstuck the truck moves

through mountains where thousands

of trees stand ankle-deep in snow

their black burnt bodies embellishing, re-telling

or forgetting memories to the best

of their recollections


On State Highway 4 past a Catholic Monastery

and a Buddhist Retreat

years of fluttering monks’ robes

brushed against and tarnished

walls       holy cloth pressed against trust

and promise


Peer up to mountain homes of glass

down to humble adobes

cackles sound near a restaurant’s back door

where chickens roost on steps

with faded red, yellow, and blue paint

a jaunty multi-colored rooster

announces the woman’s approach

he big-steps past the goat whose feet


turn outward    all four point left

the woman from the truck walks

to the fence    the goat looks at her

gathers himself in a slow composed

sashay and walks sideways

towards the woman who watches

his wondrous submissive ballet


A U-turn surrounded by ancient red rocks

and the people of the unstuck truck

return through black trees still standing like sentries


back past the never-burned

and the splendor they shoveled

themselves out of    to drive into more

nonsense and cravings of what people do


Mary Strong Jackson

February 8, 2019




Posted February 11, 2019 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

Found from 2011   Leave a comment

Grieve for the life you thought you’d have said the TV

doctor in a PBS fundraiser

is it my sister’s life

much like my mother’s

a home with grandchildren under foot

with assurances of how the next years will unfold

ever notice bits of good keeping on

even while much else has gone bad

when the kitchen catches fire

and the landlord says pay up

the dog’s brows furrow in worry

the neighbor leaves nasty notes

and we blame each other for being bad listeners

even the centipedes eye me with doubt

but for the first time my fingernails grow long

while we poke mud and sticks in the cracks of our world

an artist creates animals and fairies from mud and sticks

on the river bank to share with anyone

and when all the clerks in the store sour their faces

and the volkswagon woman with the “Give Peace A Chance”

bumper sticker flips me off and a longing begins for a cave with a few throw pillows

I stop at the light by the city park and a tiny prairie

dog runs to the point of the median too little to be alone

then his mother pops from a hole and scolds him to return

mama’s love independent babies

I took the wrong street once over and over again

found a hairdresser with gentle hands who spoke only Spanish

once my hair was cut by a Ukrainian

who shared her joy that my middle name, Alice,

matched her daughter’s

only she and my mother cared so for an Alice

When she said Alice I heard it glide from her lips like the word sluice

sluice – a channel for a flow of water that is controlled by a valve or gate- almost the same as a mouth

the Ukrainian hairdresser saw me in the sandwich shop

in Southend-on-Sea where I stopped to buy a sandwich with corn in it

which didn’t seem right

then the mother of Alice kissed me on both cheeks so sweet and so good

Posted February 11, 2019 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

Grandma Didn’t Die in the Corvair   Leave a comment

she waited till her

black Irish brows grayed

after she’d wandered town

looking for tiny girls

she thought were lost

stopping at the man who sold cars

to inquire about the girls


he had no arms

but a finger grew from the place

his arms should be

a thalidomide baby      grandmother said

and I imagined  thalidomide man

holding girls so tiny he curled one finger

around their waists and when he turned

his head he was eye to eye with them

and when he looked forward

they stared at the moles on his neck

and hoped he wouldn’t drop them


now grandma seems like a dream

offering gingersnaps

and workbooks to do while

my tonsils shrink


wait long enough and dead people

are dreams you can’t quite grasp

and only remember

when something in the day reminds

like someone says icebox instead of fridge


and then your mother is old and dies

and you remember two women

getting old and then they die

though they once

ate brownies and tied their shoes

in the wind


Mary Strong Jackson

Posted February 11, 2019 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

Feeding Twins   Leave a comment


Their bodies barely longer than a good-sized fish

sit in high chairs where fat feet

flutter below and plump palms pat

their trays. I pinch a piece of buttery

pumpernickel toast. Top it with a tiny


bit of egg, poke it in their open mouths –

baby birds in high chairs.

Their mouths and my buttered fingers meet

with a sense of each other    the way grandmother’s

wrinkled cheek felt against my lips.


Their mouth-sounds ignite ancient

instincts to feed small ones   to feed

each other with our fingers,

to know the shape of another’s lips,

the inside of another’s mouth.


No matter if a mother walked on all fours,

no matter if the first lovers ate off flat stones,

at some moment, they offered nuts

or marrow placed into the other’s mouth

with fingers slick on soft lips

Posted February 9, 2019 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

Turning Towards Another   Leave a comment

Outside my window

seconds of serendipitous light

and slivers of shadows

languish on an eave’s icicle.

I see a man turn ‘round

to greet a woman – the moment’s gentle

turn of head and shoulder

the surreal flow of mind and spine

cogs awakened to repeat the patterns

time and again

time and again to turn

towards another

by Mary Strong Jackson

Posted February 9, 2019 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

Litost   Leave a comment

This poem is included in my chapbook, From Other Tongues:

“Litost” is Czech and the closest definition is a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.


she’d caught sight of it

in shadows like a mouse

along the baseboards


but this wanted her to see

and scurried less

seemed larger than before

she felt an unveiling coming

a reckoning

so she held a heavy blanket

one moonlit night and caught it


it had body and weight

afraid to uncover it

but feeling she must

she laid the heavy thing on the bed

unwrapped it at a snail’s speed

making her bones ache with effort

felt a clawing under her skin


once unveiled

it spelled out words

each letter carved

from parts of her

soot,  grime, boils,

and blood

road rash and ringworms


she folded the blanket

around it

held it against her

offered warm tea

and rubbed it with oil

to soften each part that protruded


then she whispered as she rocked it, “Mistakes can be rounded away from sharpness. There will be no more dark scurrying.”




Posted January 10, 2019 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

Standing   1 comment

The below poem and essay have been published in a book called, Missing Persons edited by Deborah Coy. It is an anthology of writings about dementia.  The book launch in Santa Fe, NM will be at Teatro Paraguas on January 13th at 5 pm.

my father lies naked on the floor
I can’t lift him         I call my brother

he can barely stand this     I consider the portals

we long to slip through


I cover my father with a blanket

this body of his once lifted whole roads
these soft fists once clenched and swung

and pounded


we try to help my father stand

my brother’s feelings hover

like drone missiles wanting a target


years of shoving    shoveling

and evading took our father’s strength
I want to stretch my legs into the sunset

my brother can barely stand this work


I pull underwear up our father’s legs
ask him to lean one way    tell my brother

to pull the other side of the underwear


my brother can barely stand this

I call 911 to help us

raise our father
lift him    toss him in the air
put him to bed     spoon sweet food

in his mouth


we can’t keep doing this
my brother says

Mary Strong Jackson



You Don’t Understand I’m in a Jam

I wander through my parent’s home of the past 30 years, packing dad’s things for the nursing home. The sense of my mother being gone is stronger, as if an already dead person can seem more gone, but she does. I know which shirts she’d want me to choose for him, and seeing the stick pins all over the United States map showing all the places dad hauled farm machinery from East to West Coast makes the end of their lives together more visible and painful. This feels like dropping your last child off for kindergarten, but instead of a new beginning, it is the beginning of an end.

I carry his things into the Valley Care Facility, walk into his room, and see an old man sitting in a chair. He wasn’t this old last month. I note a new softness filling his body and mind. His metamorphosis feels disorienting. I see my hard-drinking, truck-driving, fist-fighting father become mellow, accept others making choices for him, and need me more than he’d ever admitted.

I fill out the social history paperwork for the nursing home. I check nothing under hobbies but write, “he liked to watch old movies, old Westerns, but not anymore.” My sister said you could have added, ‘He likes to drink, dance, and get in bar fights’. Even that behavior was years ago.

Dad opens his eyes. He has trouble finding words, so talking with him means playing a word association game. He makes connections like calling his room a cabin. Who wouldn’t want their tiny, shared nursing home room to be a cabin?

“The donkey we had for dinner yesterday was not good, but lunch today tasted better,” Dad says.  He’s been reporting the various kinds of meat he’s been eating, and he calls them by the animal, so beef is cow, and pork is pig, but he has also mentioned squirrel, monkey, and duck.

“How’s mom?” he asks. “I saw her, but another lady is using her name.”

“Mom died two years ago,” I say. “Someone’s using the name Ruth Jackson?”

“I know she died. Yes, I didn’t know that happens. That they would do that.”

“Use other people’s names?” I ask.

“Well, that they shear a person like a sheep when they put them in the casket.”

“Hmmm,” I nod.

“I talked to your sister Babe. She said to say “hello” and she’ll try and see you soon.  Babe always took good care of you, didn’t she? She looked out for you when you were little.”

“Yes, she did.” His chin shook, and tears run down his cheeks. I put my hand on his arm. Tears run down my cheeks. I’d seen my dad cry only a few times – when he was ill in the hospital and scared, when mom died, and now.

“I wish I could live by a river.”

“Me too, Dad. I’ve always wanted to live near water.”

Day 4 in the Nursing Home:

I type into Google:

“life expectancy of 81-year-old man with dementia and untreated non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma”

“average length of stay by nursing home residents”

“life expectancy of 81-year-old man who sees dead relatives”

“old man with dementia in a nursing home with ungodly long toenails, sees dead relatives – sees his dead mother and the dead brother he liked better than the other also dead brother, and he asks his daughter to wheel him around the nursing home to find Brother Fred and their mother. He worries his mom is not being taken care of.” Of course, no help there. I don’t want him to suffer, but I know his days are not always comfortable. Or am I wanting to know how long I have to watch my dad’s downhill journey?

Later, “Can you put me in your car, take me home? I am in a jam.”

“It’s a new place, and you haven’t been here long, so it’s not surprising you feel confused.”

“You don’t understand. I’ve always been able to get myself out of anywhere.” These might be the most honest words my dad ever said to me.

I feed him chocolate pudding with whipped cream, and he says, “Mmmm” with every bite. He hadn’t lost his sweet tooth, it would be his last taste of sweetness.

“I’m going home now, dad.”

“Don’t forget I’m here.”

“I won’t ever forget you are here.”

“I thought you did last week,” he says.

“I won’t forget, and I promise I’ll see you tomorrow.”

By Mary Strong Jackson



Posted January 10, 2019 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

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