Table of Contents - Vol. VII, No. 3
Lois P. Jones
Photo © Peter Shefler
Music as snowdrift on the crest of a hill.
Light composing shadows beneath
the white boughs of evergreens. A time
when absence is a strawberry
in a old koa bowl. You remember
the taste of it -- a note that falls
from the corner of a room. A generous mouth
and a tongue's dark gravity. You have left
your stillness and I have played its chord.
Its pull toward a universe
of lost things. This cathedral of wishes
that silenced a meadow. Poplars growing
in winter toward a cornflower sky. They know
the sound of your footsteps. The soft thunder
of a man. Heavier than hooves of a white-tailed deer,
lighter than a cardinal's blood. The way wind
unravels your red scarf until you slip
from your body -- following the crystal fields
over Grandmother Mountain. I see
where desire went, consumed by snowmelt
someone who once named you Dream-Crowned.
Said your whiteness spoke the unsayable things.
You shall leave everything you love most:
this is the arrow that the bow of exile shoots first. -- Dante Alighieri
Memory impales like an old cut of wood.
It leaves me in this field -- a scarecrow
with the sky for a head gathering clouds
for a lost country. Stripped down to nothing
but this owl on my outstretched arm.
I think of how your mother draws you out
of the Packard for the view. Somewhere
on your journey from Alexandria to Genoa.
At the top of a hill you look down
into yourself. Florence unfolds in front of you
in a river of green silk. Vineyards and olive groves,
red roofs aflame in the August heat,
the Palazzo del Bargello and its prison of ghosts.
And you weep with visions of a man in red robes
and eyes so full of rain. Years later at the tip
of a question it comes back --
the country you could not save,
the poems you wrote to douse the blaze for a land
that forgot its noblest son, the fever before your collapse.
I say that exile is a kind of death where loss is found
in every beautiful thing -- a postcard, a sunset, a sonnet,
the way light kindles a wooden floor, jasmine
and rose water, moonlight on the tongue. The truth is
nothing ever leaves you and hell is an illusion
of landscape. Take these wounds worn in wood.
I'll bring what's left, to burn.
© Lois P. Jones