after school and summer



the program is

a place for them to go

after school and summer

they are reading, quiet

listening to music

when I come in


they love to shout

they got caught in the

rain and the building

shook with their laughter

when they ran in


we used to be downstairs

next to them

trying to work amid their

raucous energy

now we're upstairs

and their voices come

up to us throughout the day


she said it was hard at first

opening up year after year

to new love for new children

transient with their families

but now it's been going on

so long, they've come back

she invites them for


and she feels better


It was like that with the

refugees, four groups in

one summer, so hard to

open up each time to each

one, knowing they would

go soon

but they had so much pain

to escape from

our hearts helped them

feel it, get it out

get ready for the asylum


until they could tell their

reasons for leaving

without losing it

by the end learning to laugh

again with us

each time breaking fresh

a balancing of hope and

memory, trauma, simple

summer, mangos, pupusas

flattened pat between the palms


they said feel the

rhythm in your feet

and dance up from


it worked

my hips found the beat

dancing all night

we forgot


for a while

the silver roof shone

fathom Absalom


the bus would leave taking

them to Canada

the residents had stopped

crying years before

we volunteers couldn't

contain it

the windows of the bus

should have cracked

with so much pain

but it was joy, too

we knew we had also

found that


some of the children

have a hard time with eyes

they look at my eyes for

a long time, until something

breaks and they realize that

I'm smiling at them and then

a smile returned in disbelief


I see three girls reaching

to touch the different colored

people holding hands around

the world

this week there are pictures

of them playing in fountains

and wrestling

some shy smiles


later, i see the same three girls

don't be pushing people so hard

they almost fought about it

at the foot of the stairs

I was coming down and they

pulled into themselves and she

said again don't be

pushing people so hard and

turned away

dizzy and repeating it again to

herself, almost hitting the

wall with her shoulder


I walked in to take them the rent

check, and he caught my eye at

four feet or so and I smiled and

he said beauty, emphasizing the

T, oh thanks, I said, dizzy myself


there's one girl who gets lost in a

stare, stood on the stairs in front

of me not moving, lost, her finger

pointing at nothing below her

takes a while for people to get

in to her, let them in, get out

to them

I understand that

give her what simple faith I can

eventually her eyes come back


it's like the man last week in DC

he was speaking out his poetry

extemporaneously, while the

other man was stringing

café lights

I caught his eye and smiled

walking by

he stopped and said thank you

for the smile to my back

sure, man, i said

I was glad to give him that



July 1, ©1999

Amy Jackson





Back on the Metro



full of

samosas aloo pratha

aloo gobi chicken tikka masala

the rice custard that makes us smile

warm and sleepy

back on the Metro

the cars are pulled

along the spine of the train

like vertebrae

shifting with the effort



the cables of the inner walls

are racing gray arteries

sudden black lights blue

arteries again


my head on your shoulder

the rock of the train


with god's tired voice mumbling the stops

all the way to Union Station




Amy Jackson










the summer after the tornado

cubes and spirals

sudden rainbows

sudden winds

twice i went in and

the news was caution


one cloud was like a Japanese

box kite made of currents

grays and speed


one a blanket of clouds quilted


and then a large flat disc arced

cut into the sky


two smaller


one spiralling

one being stretched down

falling opalescent





bumblebee paths

deep blue umbels and



and the bumblebee is disappearing

into foxglove throats


a hummingbird came to the

sunflower arch and was tiny

and reigned

brightly its eyes surveyed


i was still by the cariopteris

listening to the bees there close

and the hummingbird's lightest buzz

fast and squeaked sharply bright green

and for an instant i saw it closer

startling us both


then to sit again on the arch


i couldn't turn


then to fly away


and the small birds yellow

with black markings

ate the seeds out of the


a flock of five rare birds

there twice in a morning


to know that i had

given them some respite

in exchange for what they had given me!






like photographs each night

held still against nightmare fragments


black butterflies at noon

swallowtails on coneflowers

purple stars facing orange up






leaves making sound textures

of silk or soft meeting soft air





Amy Jackson