Something Has To Die for Something Else to Live   3 comments



will it be the dream that dies

a dream so old it’s become the hardness of the bones

letting go          leaves a spot        a space

of heart-sized vast expanse      opened with goodbyes


so the next dreamer

of hummingbirds that cradle into an open spot

flash their necks at dawn

beat their wings in tranquil turbulence

can breathe ideas into bone


it’s about love not lack of



sunlit swallows catch drops of water tossed

into the air by a churning river

a river that gathers and carries

gives and takes


this is about light not lack of


something has to live

paint from the last painter’s brush

rhymes from another poet’s tongue

dreams from another dreamer’s life


from mountain snow

melting in sunlight

giving water to a river that gathers and carries

gathers what becomes

the hardness in the bone


carries dreams      that won’t die

Mary Strong Jackson



Posted November 10, 2016 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

Returning a child to the Rez   2 comments

we drive under a dreamer’s sky

the whitest of clouds plumped

and placed in a precise hue of prairie blue

in what might be entry into a sweet town

where men in overalls stand with hands

in pockets     talk of rain and when the wheat

will be ready to cut


instead it’s Whiteclay, Nebraska

the 2nd of the month

checks have come in

bodies are strewn like discarded bottles

of beer    broken    leaking    some face down on the street

some braced in doorways

“they’d get it somewhere and if they had to walk further

there’d be more dead on the roads”

say the wealthy sellers of beer in Whiteclay


population 14

2 miles from the dry reservation

4 establishments sell beer   just 4   just beer

3 to 4 million cans a year

10 to 13,000 a day

sold to the 28,000 Native Americans

from Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota


skinny little Angie Kills-in-Water wakes

to meet my eyes in the rear-view mirror

“Wanna stop for a coke?”

“No” I say


“No. We can stop”

“Never mind” she says


sorrow seems to steam from the streets

rising like heat

my vision feels wavy the way mirages

appear on oiled country roads in July

what country is this?


Angie leans over the seat to whisper

“I’m almost home!”

miles away from the white house

white fenced foster home

of cut lawns and leashed dogs

back to cars that take 4 Hail Mary’s to start

where sunlight  wind  and snow comes in around

door frames and windows

where Auntie Sue will gather all their blankets

and coats to wrap the two grandpas

and two children and herself

not just a popcorn cozy warm

but so they will not freeze

so they will not die


and be dead like Angie’s father

hit by a car on his way home from Whiteclay

Angie’s one memory of mother is her yellow death skin

or Auntie Sue’s babies 1 and 2 and 3

dead like other cousins in car wrecks

or her sister who hanged herself after the 3rd rape

from white men who come to the rez

to get away with it


Auntie Sue brings me

inside her dirt-floored house

bare wood walls      one page from a coloring book

hangs near the door

the child beside her withered in some way

holding her returning cousin’s arm

as if never to let go

two old men watch a small TV

there are no rooms

just quilts covering places to sleep

and two hard-backed chairs


I sit in one and explain paperwork

to Auntie Sue who wants to speak aloud

the names of those gone

to tell the agony of a family tree

made of dead branches

Sue says, “it’s the funerals     all those funerals

made me give up beer long ago”


gracious Auntie Sue sees me to the door

does she know her life expectancy is 52

outside under that perfect hue of prairie blue

we say goodbye         I step into my car


a 2002 Honda Accord

seats with no holes

the engine starts on first try

my sleek black traveling mug

fits in the cup holder

I’ll drive to my small stucco house

where my two dogs wait in a big grassy yard

with  cactus  wildflowers

and garden tomatoes


I can’t shake the feel and stink

of wealth from   my skin or gut

an exit out of my country

into my country

how can I have so much

Mary Strong Jackson



Posted September 12, 2016 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

Between Elections   Leave a comment

 gather phonographs
 they will be small compared to skies and oceans
 but small things survive

 place the needle down on Muddy Waters
 and make whole bodies move like a big river
 play Lucinda Williams on the sun dropping side
 the Boss or Pavarotti on the north will wake bones
 Mills Brothers so old dead folks can roll
 in their graves with a smile

 lie on your stomach
 listen to the snaps of expectation

Posted August 8, 2016 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

  Leave a comment

Feeding the Twins

for Alex and Mya


their bodies barely longer than a good-sized fish

sit in high chairs where their fat feet

flutter below while plump palms

pat their trays to the tune

of “Caterpillar, Caterpillar, tickle, tickle on my arm”


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 my 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


Mary Strong Jackson

July 28, 2016






Posted August 4, 2016 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

As The Crow Flies   Leave a comment

Avoid clichés is good advice for writers, but I thought it would be fun to create a poem of only clichés. It was fun!

I’ll air my dirty laundry
On an abandoned ship
At the 11th hour
Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining
I’m armed to the teeth
And beautiful as the day is long

Bust your balls and burn your bridges
You still can’t build a better mousetrap
Boy Howdy
I’m back in the saddle again
I was caught off guard
Trying to catch a falling knife
That cuts to the quick
From those backhanded compliments
and bald-faced lies

But I’ve got it covered
Can’t make a silk purse out of sow’s ear
When you’ve got a thorn in your side
Just wanted someone to sweeten the pot
Sugarcoat something
Teach me to fish

So I got the raw end of the deal
Zigged when I should have zagged
Cried a river of crocodile tears

Now I’m burning the midnight oil
Life is a bowl of cherries
And the $64,000 question?

Your place or mine?

Mary Strong Jackson
January 2016

Posted February 1, 2016 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

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Shelter Memory for N., B., and T.   Leave a comment

I wrote this poem after getting to know three brilliant men who were staying in the men’s shelter in Santa Fe, NM. Two were graduates of Ivy League schools, all were personable, well-traveled, articulate. Life happens in ways we never believe will happen to us, but it can and it does. It was winter time and the night temperatures were below freezing. The shelter was heated, but all the men had to leave by 6 am, and find a place to be for the day until they lined up at 6 pm for a meal, and, hopefully, a bed. The three talked of how disturbing it was to try and sleep with so many men coughing through the night. A sound, they all agreed, they would never forget.

Shelter Memory

they tell of the deep continuous
coughs that plague their nights
as if every shelter man’s

story rises from ribs to become
a sad song sung in rounds
not of rowing one’s own boat

nor that life is but a dream
but rounds of cough hack
cough and sputter

afflicted racks of ribs
torments of trying to hold
in machine gun bursts of pain

these men tell how this sound
on winter nights in the overfill shelter
leaves a sound hacked into the soul

grooved into the brain
where the sound settles

Posted December 23, 2015 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

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What Preemie Twins Are Made Of   Leave a comment


his brown hair was woven
by a mama silkworm as she told
bedtime stories of little boys counting stars
and little girls talking to caterpillars

her reddish-blond fuzz comes from inside
the rose petal and the skin of a peach
rubbed together and smoothed across
her head and behind her ears

their skin was made of mother’s sighs
and father’s eyelashes mixed with clouds
raindrops and dropped feathers
of baby parakeets

noses come from the potter’s hands
while she thinks of whales’s backs
and ladybug curves and then imagines
every tiny nose ever made

snails and moon and waves
and curving sand shape tiny
ears until each one rolls
out unlike any other

a velvet bow? a dollop of cream?
these mouths - softer and more precious -
are placed on twin faces by kisses
from a fairy-god made of chiffon

the eyes come from shades of river rocks
light of sunflowers, darkest walnuts
carried by the blackest squirrels
under the bluest summer skies

their smallest cries make milk drip
coyotes’ howl and stars fall
from the sky in magic

Mary Strong Jackson for Alex and May
September 29, 2015

Posted October 8, 2015 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

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