Zion, the latest collection of poems by TJ Jarrett, is the poignant study of the resonating effects of the civil rights movement on one family. Jarrett lovingly explores the minutiae of mortality and race across three generations of “Dark Girls” who have come together one summer to grieve and to remember as one of them passes to the farther shore—a place beyond retribution, where there is only forgiveness.
The Mississippi of Jarrett’s collection is alive with fireflies and locusts and murders of crows; yet for some, it is a wasteland of unanswered prayers, burning evenings, and the shades of dead or disappeared loved ones. There, the dark nights of the soul weigh long and heavy, and “every heart has its solstice, and its ache is unrelenting.”
Yet much as every solstice has an equinox, every time to kill has a time to forgive. Throughout the volume, the author imagines opportunities for compassion on multiple levels, from sweeping pardons to the most intimate of mercies. Jarrett’s faceless narrator confesses the past through conversation and exploration with notorious Mississippi governor Theodore Bilbo: two minds, two hearts, two races at last face to face.
At once brutal and achingly tender, Jarrett’s volume itself is a vibrant and musical body, singing to all its parts.