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How to Listen

I am going to cock my head tonight like a dog
in front of McGlinchy's Tavern on Locust;
I am going to stand beside the man who works all day combing
his thatch of gray hair corkscrewed in every direction.
I am going to pay attention to our lives
unraveling between the forks of his fine-tooth comb.
For once, we won't talk about the end of the world
or Vietnam or his exquisite paper shoes.
For once, I am going to ignore the profanity and
the dancing and the jukebox so I can hear his head crackle
beneath the sky's stretch of faint stars.

—Major Jackson

from Leaving Saturn, 2002
The University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA

Copyright 2002 by Major Jackson.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of The University of Georgia Press from Leaving Saturn, 2002. Copyright 2002 by Major Jackson. For further permissions information, contact The University of Georgia Press, 330 Research Drive, Suite B-100, Athens, GA 30602-4901.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Major Jackson (1968- ) is the author of four poetry collections, including Roll Deep: Poems (W. W. Norton and Company, 2015). Jackson is the Richard Dennis Green and Gold Professor at University of Vermont and a core faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars.

Learn more about Major Jackson at The Poetry Foundation.