NOLA Diaspora Logo Table of Contents for Art Space Table of Contents for Word Place About the Contributors About the People and Project Contact Us

You Can Bust a Jackson

A crisis of small minds

brightens with stills

…when blossoming leaves (you know the rubbish)

                        do pray, so

when in doubt, stay there

with things that come and go to the heart of the matter

For instance, the poet Rene Char

tells a story of when he was fighting for the French Resistance

how he was sent scouting for a landing field

for broken Allied planes,

with maybe one wing in flames

co-pilot maybe dead

Char had money

and he found a farmer who would but

not if the 300 year old walnut tree

had to come down.

And it had to come down

(Char explains) so

they cut down the tree and followed the taproot

which led them to the armor

of an ancient knight, must have been

            16th century

and he must have had a walnut in his pocket

said Char, “level of his thighbone,” because

the magnificent tree had grown

            right out of his grave



When you see me

f*****g call me

Give me your heart or

your phone and

your flashlight

& I will go for you

& I will seek for you

A secret message written

in minor keys on the hide of the deer

(the deer sacrifice

will not take place this year)



A boundless limitation of poetry:

the banality of high seriousness

an illusion of depth

and the weight of my own self-importance

when I haven’t had a single poetic thought all day

but I had a dream in which

I was travelling with a beautiful woman

with long blond hair. How do I know

she was beautiful?  She never looked at me.

I can’t remember her face because

She never turned to face me

-- waiting for a train.



What is the origin of “there is no spoon”

            and why am I always touting rectangles

            I owe so much to Mantovani

& pantomime rhyme

a quick lead to a dead end

my guitar technique is getting better

my fingers are talking to each other

and the bar chord is becoming my best friend

I don’t hate it anymore


My hands are less like hams

and more like filets, boneless

fish and moving freely from

B#mi to F#mi almost without

covering every string

and that doesn’t sound too bad, just

out of tune



I have an intestinal disorder

I hate my own guts

It’s not the indifference that gets to me—

it’s the negative capability

to hold two contradictory ideas

in mind at the same time

            because I never believe myself

This ringing in my ears is not silence

It is the sound of a man

driving a nail through his skull.




The world is not always

narrow and mean as

we think it is


always our duty

to make it wide and fine



Wherever I die

            bury my heart in New Orleans

because nothing else belongs there

except my ass

            Blow up your sidewalk

            with your sun and rain

I’m not an entertainer nor

an entrepreneur, I don’t know

how to make fish out of poetry

nor does this have to be explained

no universal knowledge but a little


I’ve been through all that—

“You can bust a Jackson

but you cannot break a Tubman.”

Dennis Formento

Dennis Formento,
poet and sometime free-jazz/free-verse performer (Ed Barrett Trio, Frank Zappatistas), lives in Slidell, LA with his wife, artist, teacher, and yogini, Patricia Hart. He is the publisher of Surregional Press. His latest undertaking is bringing Italian cantautore and tarantella traditions to New Orleans poetry; in this endeavor, he is collaborating with dancer Nanette Ledet. He organizes the New Orleans 100,000 Poets for Change readings.