In Baton Rouge, there was a DJ on the soul station who was
always urging his listeners to “take it on home to Jerome.”
No one knew who Jerome was. And nobody cared. So it
didn’t matter. I was, what, ten, twelve? I didn’t have anything
to take home to anyone. Parents and teachers told us that all
we needed to do in this world were three things: be happy,
do good, and find work that fulfills you. But I also wanted
to learn that trick where you grab your left ankle in your
right hand and then jump through with your other leg.
Everything else was to come, everything about love:
the sadness of it, knowing it can’t last, that all lives must end,
all hearts are broken. Sometimes when I’m writing a poem,
I feel as though I’m operating that crusher that turns
a full-size car into a metal cube the size of a suitcase.
At other times, I’m just a secretary: the world has so much
to say, and I’m writing it down. This great tenderness.