Vanderbilt Magazine

‘Now That You Are Here, I Can Think’: A poem by Major Jackson

What you really are is svelte,
the mainland of your feelings
a young Veronica Webb, and what we share
are solutions, and not so much
the Parisian air you tired of, nor the fat,
sweaty bead coursing a décolletage,
an unlikely consequence of the Kyoto
Protocol, but the pleasures
of lounging below French-style
windows open wide as arms whose blowsy
curtain is a shawl that formally hangs
and informally shifts when you
drift into the room
like a Spike Lee
dolly shot.

The kids are dancing to some Ariana
but I’m watching what you do
with your lips when reading silently
around 4:22pm on a late Sunday afternoon.

I have a weakness for marble winding
stairs and tight two-person elevators.
But the brasseries are waiting
as well as the fútbol fans who need help
cheering, for we are Americans after all
and are ready to hype even the locusts on the day
of judgment. I don’t care about the midfielder
or the winger. You’re smiling, and that’s all
the defending I’ll ever need.

Major Jackson, who joined the university’s faculty as Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English in January 2021, is the author of five books of poetry. His work has been published in American Poetry Review, The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review and Ploughshares. This poem appears in his latest book, The Absurd Man (W.W. Norton & Co., 2020). Learn more at

Reprinted from THE ABSURD MAN: Poems. Copyright © 2020 by Major Jackson. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.