New Poems by Richard Jones
Father and Son
Riding his bike home from middle school,
a car struck William—
the car gunning fast into moving traffic,
the driver looking the other way.
Pushing the ruined bike with its kinked tires,
William somehow made it home.
still wearing his black helmet,
he showed me the bent handlebars,
the stripped metal cables like torn veins.
I looked to see if he was hurt
then held him as he wept against my chest.
The mangled bike on the lawn,
I opened the door and brought him inside the house.
It was already dark outside
when I misread my daughter’s text
and thought she’d said, “I’m on Mars.”
Instantly, my legs went weak.
How would she breathe up there?
Who’d bring her cookies and milk?
And how would she get home?
A moment later I looked again
at the phone glowing in my hand
and saw it was a typical evening—
Sarah was at Mari’s, her BFF,
only three doors down the lane.
Soon I’d stroll through the dark
to Mari’s house, and walk my Sarah
back through the night’s shadows,
the two of us holding hands,
a blade of light showing the way.
I breathed a long a sigh of relief,
typed my usual response,
and hit send,
telling my daughter I love her
all the way to the moon and back—
even all the way to Mars—
and all she had to do was text me
when she was ready for her father
to get his flashlight and bring her home.
From the garden’s thick-blooming weeping cherry
I snipped three branches—
heavy laden, the white of snow.
Lovely on the table in a glass vase,
the slender branches spiraled high, reaching upward,
connecting heaven and earth,
yet something in the arrangement was missing,
some ephemeral grace or affection,
“It’s my lack of art,” I thought,
but then dusk came
and I found you beside the flowers,
sitting with your pen,
searching for the right words
for the sympathy note you were writing.
My madness came upon me as of old…
When the night grows
I lay down my pen,
extinguish the desk lamp,
and climb the narrow stairs
an almost defeated man.
I find my wife in her white gown,
tranquilly lounging in bed.
I sit on the edge
and with great effort
remove one sock.
Most of us follow wandering fires, I say,
thinking to explain myself and enlighten her,
she whose wisdom is like a mountain.
Surely she must know
she is my superior in equanimity,
yet she never presses the advantage;
propped on a fluffy pillow,
she reads her magazine, turning glossy pages,
sipping a glass of white wine,
and not looking up from her magazine,
pats the pure-white pillow,
calling me to bed.
This earth I walk on
seems not earth,
and dropping the other sock,
knowing her love shall not be won
with borrowed words.
For a wife’s hushed beauty
is like a white flower beyond words,
though words are all a poet has,
especially when it’s late and the day is lost
and his feet are cold,
barefoot in blue pajamas.
These poems will appear in Richard Jones’s new book, Emphasis on the Almost, forthcoming from Tebot Bach in late autumn 2016. It is the follow-up to his books Apropos of Nothing and The Correct Spelling & Exact Meaning, both from Copper Canyon Press. These three books form a trilogy that evokes the suffering, bliss, and awakening of the attentive life. Copper Canyon will also publish Jones’s Flight to Madrid, which contains the poem “Lost,” provided at the link below.