the ashland poetry press

Tonight I am watching the moonlight
fight its own shadows, watching it steal its light from the earth. Every day
we reflect a love that needs us. Every day we ignore this love the roots
of stars rot back into darkness. Maybe every beginning is only a reflection
that has arrived from nowhere.

Richard Jackson, from “Desperate Beginnings,” Resonance (Ashland Poetry Press, 2010)

What do you do when your shadow is more exact than
your own self? When your own secrets sleep in your throat?
Even the nightingale sings what it collects from the day’s
failures. There was a time when everything please me,
when everything called my name. That was before I lived
in a landscape someone else invented. Later, I never found
any certain record of what I was supposed to do,
or why. I was an echo with no first sound.

Richard Jackson, from “The Lesson of Samson,” Resonance: Poems (Ashland Poetry Press, 2010)

But tonight, tonight I can simply hold a fist up between the sun and the horizon
and count on each finger a quarter hour until the sun disappears. I can dream
of standing beside you as the shadows of trees drink from the water below us.
Tonight, despite all the splinters of these words, despite the way our lives float off
with milkweed seeds, despite the clouds that prowl the skies of history behind us,

despite their lightning that echoed before any beginning, now, while the past sleeps
in the trees, I will begin with the moment before the otter slips into the water,
the moment before the owl chooses a branch for its nest, forgetting no prophecy
or darkness, no death or extinction, no torture that shackles the heart, but simply
to begin again, to begin by thinking of a love that has survived all this time, just as
this poem has been thinking about you since its beginnings, remembering what
endures, like this river flowing always through our own hands, or like Rodin’s
lovers, held in their desperate embrace by the black, enormous hand of God.

Richard Jackson, from “Desperate Beginnings,” Resonance (Ashland Poetry Press, 2010)

Once I thought that to begin meant I knew where I was going,
that we could sculpt our own future from the hardest stone.
Now the doors of desire have
no handles. Now we have this unbearable emptiness between stars,
the lost hopes that slip back below the horizon as the planet turns,
our orphan words whose pockets are stuffed with unknown futures.

Richard Jackson, from “Desperate Beginnings,” Resonance (Ashland Poetry Press, 2010)

Maybe we have to betray ourselves in order
just to be ourselves. In the end, Truth taps
at the window of our souls. What quivers on the lake
are only the footprints of Fate. Even our astronomers
hear the funeral sounds of dying galaxies before they
ever see them. Gusts of time are filling my lungs.
I’m the crow the hawks chase from their nests.
I used to think Love would protect us from the shadows
we cast. I used to think that Hope was not what
jingled in our pockets. I used to think all this loneliness
would be unbearable. Now each word is a betrayal,
is the frayed rope-end of desire. Everything I say is
like some cargo hidden in the hold of a sunken ship.
In the end we all learn there’s no sea, no sky, no word
big enough to hold all our pain. Only this kiss. Only
Love’s dragline already hooking the very thing it fears.

Richard Jackson, closing line to “The Apology of Judas,” Resonance: Poems (The Ashland Poetry Press, 2010)

punches a time clock that always reads the same hour.
There’s a suspicion that today is really yesterday.
That crickets dream about being reincarnated as pure
sound. The bees wake as the sun hits the hive.
The sky is filled with late and clumsy birds.
Somebody’s always ready to pickpocket the past.
There’s a gap in the narrative the way a river
suddenly slips underground but flows on unnoticed.
—  Richard Jackson, from “While You Were Away,” Out of Place: Poems (The Ashland Poetry Press, 2014)

I imagined a dark world
where the stars clamor to be inside us. Whatever we invent
becomes the history we have to live. In truth, it takes only
a handful of history’s shadows to commandeer our dreams
It takes a famine of the heart to empty the streets of our words.
It takes an imaginary terror to rid ourselves of imagination.

Richard Jackson, from “Involuntary Beginnings,” Resonance: Poems (The Ashland Poetry Press, 2010)