Richard Jones: Poems from Avalon

Art by Rodney Smith

The Mind

The mind is an ancient and famous capital…
—Delmore Schwartz

All down the steps of these long decades
I have enjoyed living inside my mind,
an ancient capital, ruined and eternal,
as great a city as London or Rome,
with pleasant tree-shaded boulevards
and alleys and narrow passageways.
My mind is like a king’s walled palace
or a mansion of many rooms with views
of a terraced countryside, river, and sky.
My mind is shelter and sanctuary, a secret
treasure house, a cathedral, a high tower.
It’s a forsaken shack found in tall woods  
or a cold attic room with a single candle.
At sea on a painted warship, I’m bound
for distant shores. From a cramped cabin
I send word of my adventures and trials
on a tiny scroll attached to leg of a pigeon.


Some nights I rest in silence.
The lamps on the bed tables
are quiet, and the light bulbs
sleep in their copper sockets.
The windows let in silence,
just as they welcome the light
during the day. The darkness
holds its breath; even the moon
holds her peace in the sky.
Some nights I wake for a time
and like David in the psalms
I must tell my soul to wait
and not fret, to let the silence
do its work. And some days
I’ll see a friend on the street.
We’ll chat about this and that
and occasionally I am led
to ask, “How is your soul?”
And sometimes my friends
won’t know what to say
and will just gaze at me,
bewildered and speechless.
But other times I’m blessed
and rush with my friends
straight to heaven’s table,
where we speak sublimely
about the most mundane things.


Down the street from our lane,
a 100-acre working farm with cows
and chickens has a white wooden
outhouse with a crescent moon
cut like a window in the door,
a windmill, tractors and plows,
a field of corn, a watering trough,
and tall trees with picnic tables.
A red barn piled high with hay
is home to cats that sleep in the loft.
My daughter and I walk to the farm
to hand-feed the lambs and marvel
at the pigs’ adorable curly tails.
If they see us, the big draft horses
come to the edge of the gray fence
to see if we’ve brought carrots.
Sometimes, large flocks of wild
geese float overhead and then
land on the meadow’s grass hill,
folding their wings and crying out
to my kindhearted daughter, who
welcomes all the geese like family
after their long migration home.

The Secret

The first cold day of the year
I put on an old coat.
In the left front pocket—
a smooth black stone.

I haven’t worn this coat in years,
though for a decade
it was the trusty coat I wore
on all my journeys,

journeys I’d mark with stones
carried home and arranged on shelves
to keep (as only stones can) memories
of the secret places I’d known.

But this black stone in my coat—
where did it come from?


Richard Jones at EIL

New Poems by Richard Jones at EIL

Love in a Coffin Shop

“The Owl” by Richard Jones

“Life Above the Sun” by Richard Jones

“Zurich, 1919” by Richard Jones

“Je t’aime” by Richard Jones

Avalon is forthcoming from Green Linden Press June 21, 2020.

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