Marjorie Sparkman Jackson tells haunting stories with her poems.

Death is a recurring theme in Marjorie Sparkman Jackson's new poetry collection, The Dust Catcher. As we might expect, there are frightening tales in the poems: witches persecuted in Salem, a child drowned in a well, a young girl leaping to her death, an animal caught in a steel trap and freezing to death in the winter's night.

It's important to note, however, that Marjorie Jackson does not regard death as an enemy. “The Dust Catcher,” as she calls death in the title poem of this collection, is a necessary part of the process of living, and “he remains a trustworthy agent, sworn to justice and impartiality.… Someday, you will know he speaks the truth, when you meet…face to face.…”

With a storyteller's gift for narrative and a poet's gift for brevity and just the right loaded word, Jackson gives us stories that ring with truth and beauty, even if they are often about painful subjects: lost love, widowhood, the pain of loss and grief, and the pain of love itself.

Her poems are not all about death or the spirits that haunt the dark. She also writes movingly of love. True, she presents love as a strong and sometimes frightening presence, not to be denied. Some of the poems are about love's pain: “Love is anxiety and madness.…” Others rejoice: “Kiss me until I smother/Not like Sister or Brother/Nor doting mother, then I will promise/To be your sweet other!” Most of the love poems, though, are stories that claim the bittersweet middle ground: “You are as lovely as you were then,/has it been three years since that week in France?…Forgive me, I don't want to seem a bore,/But I must know, haven't we loved before?”

Marjorie Jackson's poems have the haunting brevity of Emily Dickinson, the romantic darkness of Edgar Allan Poe, and the chilling narrative power of Shirley Jackson (no relation). She knows how to write with the best. And when we finally close the book after the last page is read, we feel we know more about life, more about love, and a great deal more about that ultimately fair and inevitable Dust Catcher, who “remains indestructible, like a black hole that whiffs everything into a pail of night.”

Marjorie Sparkman Jackson lives and writes in north San Diego County, California. Her poems have appeared in a number of journals, including The Classical Outlook, The Plains Poetry Journal, The Climbing Art, and The Archer.

The Dust Catcher
And Other Poems
by Marjorie Sparkman Jackson
ISBN 978-1-56474-501-9
96 pages, paperback, $14.00

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