Ode to Everything

Major Jackson

Somehow I have never thought to thank the ice cream cone for building a paradise in my mouth, and can you believe I have never thought to thank the purple trout lily for demonstrating its six-petaled dive or the yellow circle in a traffic light for illustrating patience. My bad. In my life, I have failed to praise the postman whose loyalty is epic, the laundress who treasures my skinny jeans and other garments, and the auto repairman who clangs a wrench inside my car tightening her own music. Were my name called and I were summoned on a brightly lit stage to accept a little statuette, after staring in utter disbelief, I would thank my dentist as well as my neighbor who sits vigil beside the dying far away from the lights, and my fourth grade teacher who brought down three-taped rulers on my hands as punishment for daydreaming out a window during an exam I already completed. Mea culpa. Now that I know the value of the peaks across from Flanders Hill, I will also perennially express reverence for their green crowns. I will never fail again to say small devotions for the scar on a friend’s face that lengthens when I walk into a room.

Major Jackson is the author of five volumes of poetry, most recently The Absurd Man (Norton, 2020). He has published poems and essays in American Poetry Review, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry London, Orion Magazine, and The Yale Review. Major Jackson is the Gertrude Conaway Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. He also serves as the poetry editor of The Harvard Review.