Home > Uncategorized > Poem-A-Day: Jake Adam Young’s “Letter Already Broadcast into Space”

Poem-A-Day: Jake Adam Young’s “Letter Already Broadcast into Space”

Letter Already Broadcast into Space
by Jake Adam York

                        —To Sun Ra, from Earth

You are not here,

you are not here 
in Birmingham,
        where they keep your name,

not in Elmwood’s famous plots
                or the monuments
of bronze or steel or the strew

        of change in the fountain
where the firehoses sprayed.

                In the furnaces,
in the interchange sprawl
        that covers Tuxedo Junction,

in the shopping malls, I think,
                they’ve forgotten you,

the broadcast towers, the barbecues, 

        the statue of the Roman god,
spiculum blotting out
                part of the stars.

To get it dark enough,
        I have to fold back 
into the hills, into the trees

                where my parents 
planted me, where the TV
        barely reaches and I drift

with my hand on the dial
                of my father’s radio,

spinning, too, the tall antenna
        he raised above the pines.

I have to stand at the base

                of the galvanized
pole I can use as an azimuth
        and plot you in.

The hunter’s belt is slung again,
                and you are there

in the pulse, in the light of
        Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka,

all your different names,

                you are there
in all the rearrangements
        of the stars.

                        Come down now,
come down again,

                like the late fall light
into the mounds along the creek,

        light that soaks like a flood
to show the Cherokee sitting upright
                underground, light 

like the fire they imply.

        Come down now 
into the crease the freight train
                hits like a piano’s hammer

and make the granite hum

                        Come down now

as my hand slips from the dial,
                tired again of looking
for the sound of another way

        to say everything.

Come down now with your diction
                and your dictionary.

Come down, Uncle, come down
        and help me rise.

I have forgot my wings.


I like the mixing of things. The shift between evident direct address and riffs on the theme introduced, like a real letter. The juxtaposition of the natural (pines, stars), social (Birmingham, the sprawls, Tuxedo Junction), and technological (hi-tech things, the freight train), and the easy relations between the three (humming granite). (E.g., the TV far away from the place “where my parents planted me,” the antenna jutting out, searching, from the pines, the idea of “drifting” while (dreamily? purposedly?) tuning the dial on the radio, looking for God.) I like the apposition of several standard-ish images that we rarely find in one poem: the still Cherokee, the humming granite of the train, the late fall light, the city references, the pines, the tired human hand using technology as a search beacon for truth.

I like how the speaker uses a “galvanized pole” to search out what he’s looking for (a star? God?): no rejection of technology wholesale, but the influx of an important energy into the technology that makes it alive where the sought one is involved, making the granite hum or galvanizing the pole. The sought one is there “in the rearrangements of the stars,” a moving force, but also an Uncle, also a familiar, Uncle the one name of his that is treated as special. There’s a generational presence: maybe the speaker’s father would’ve written a letter like this too, as he too used a radio for this search. The insertion of the poetic imagination: “tired of searching for another way to say everything” – to whom? In the broadcast into space? To fellow humans?

It has the feeling of a prayer.

[These are just preliminary thoughts…I’ve decided to write more about poems and worry about depth of analysis less constantly.]

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