992: Imago

992: Imago

992: Imago


I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.

This morning I caught sight of more gray hairs in the sink after shaving. I turned each side of my jaw close to the mirror for inspection. Surprisingly, I felt a smile come over my face, no fits of frustration at my visible signs of aging. Is this placid state my version of grin and bear it? I should be raging, right? I smacked my cheeks with aftershave cologne, to wake myself up to old anxieties. Good or bad, my silver hairs are a manifestation of next stage Major.

Along with this unseemly spirit of acceptance, I notice I feel more, and deeply; of late, my dominant emotion is profound gratitude. I’ve seen this period before; I watched my grandfather become inexplicably teary-eyed reflecting on his life. We didn’t call attention to his watery eyes, knowing he’d seen some things.

Today’s poem draws attention to that moment in our evolution, when we feel ourselves closer to our true essence, especially in the presence of others.

by Sandra Alcosser

I know where the mourning cloak
Butterflies come from I know where they go
I say to my beautiful black-Irish friend
As we lunch in a cavernous Palladian
Café where moments ago she closed 
Her eyes and rubbed her palms together 
As I asked about her happiest moment so
Far this year—She’d driven up the coast
From LA in a brand new sea foam
Fiat and she mouths its color—Verde Chiaro
Her first new car ever—She’d stopped and rested
Each evening at the home of an old lover or friend
And she speaks of them now with such tenderness—
So begins the weave—I tell her how I came upon them—
The cloaks—on a path beside the cabin 
Two-inch black white and red harlequin
Caterpillars that left the willow sapling stripped
And when I craned above the branch they bristled
Vibrated en masse like an imperial dragon
Greatly overestimating my stature—
My friend looks with vague curiosity—
Human conversation always a halting melody for me
But I try to match her happiness with the levity
Of the butterflies—their puddling and basking
Didn’t Nabokov describe discovering them
As the most intense pleasure known to men —
Comparing a mourning cloak to his first lover
a dark rustling path where she gripped him by the shoulder
rubbed her sand-dusted shoe against the stocking of her other 
leg higher up under the hem
Behind us on the almost-summer terrace 
Sweeping in like aesthetes just as the lilacs surrender
Their lush perfume the western tiger swallowtails
Jink down through the trees
Descend and slip their long tongues and yellow bodies
Into the lavender bloom
Too much to bear—this delicious afternoon
Though we used to be at the age of weddings—my friend
And I—then baby showers, and soon enough—vanishing
While all about the spectacles—the grand sipping and bliss
The wonder of the country in the denuded willow 
And the city full of seductive roads 
Like jelly without shape slowly we
Approach the next stage—Imago—Linnaeus
Called it when gelatin takes
Off its mask to become the perfect image of its species

"Imago" by Sandra Alcosser. Used by permission of the poet.