• Don Yorty

Patricia Spears Jones reads new poems

Updated: Aug 12, 2020

When I read the poems by Patricia Spears Jones in the latest issue of the Brooklyn Rail, I immediately got in touch with her and asked her if I could record her reading them for my blog. If not for the virus, I would have gone to Brooklyn where Patricia lives or she would have come here, which would have been lovely because she is one of the most social—fun to be with—and busiest poets I know going here and there—retreats and the Côte D’Azure, teaching, winning awards, and commandeering The American Poets Congress, an organization committed to keeping the truth of words intact in our time of lies.

What follows are four of her most recent poems with a link to the latest Brooklyn Rail as well. Enjoy.

Black lives pandemic protest (vaccine)

I want a tree house, the Hollywood kind—huge, luxurious Built with a really soft bed and paneless windows for ventilation and star observing. In this third-floor tenement, fantasy is free. Please send pandemic poems. Please send Black Live Matter Poems. Please stay on topic. Please show your rage, your wisdom, Please stay on that third rail. Step there and implode. Why more poems on Stalking Death? We want more poems on Black Sacrifice. Black Sacrifice and Stalking Death. Let us note the Cardinals’ seasonal migration from South to North from Virginia to Connecticut—that red bird swaggers back yards and park bench oak trees & the occasional pine. Or the electric energy of the many voiced youth, chanting I can’t breathe or Defund the Police or expletives deleted & the President’s name—the current one, fat snake coiled in or out of his bunker.

O builder of that fence surrounding the White House You now have that gated community paid by we citizens. O thrower of poisonous globs—desirous of adoration.

Youth, oh youth, mobile & motivated moving the energy flow, Lightning strikes of faith & dream & right now & no more. Yes Black Lives Matter and there they are living matter striking The Washington Monument while little hands and little feet negotiate the Bunker’s chilly moldy moonfaced rooms.

But that tree house for me and my dreamed happy family. The cardinals, robins, starlings & finches paths delight while their scary cousins: turkey vultures, hawks, & crows float or flash clouds their warrior wings on brisk display Another day for the birds and their loud trilling. Another Day and the world shakes from marching feet. Another Day masks punctuate faces, Virus loops the planet, “Strong Men” erect fences on which the people post Memoria & cartoons and at one corner someone is Pissing.

For Jac’leen Smith

First and last nights in Virginia, January and May, 2020

First night in Virginia, we stop at a CVS, late, the store is vast & sorry The lone clerk slow wipes a counter. She slumps, sags all that worry in her spills onto the counter’s hard plastic top. I gather items & wait for her suddenly cheerful acknowledgement. It seems as if fate has made this place a symbol of American want—everything in this place seems cheap except the products for sale. The lighting, the railings, that Counter. This is replicated in Walmart, Walgreens, only the Dollar Store Does not pretend to be anything other than a repository of things you need and things you don’t. The clerks are not well paid & at night left to fend for themselves in this plastic vastness. On my last visit, the clerk stands behind a cheap plastic protector. More symbol, than reality. She wears her mask and behind it smiles—she has a job & that’s good, But, this is yet another display & she’s expendable. We all are.

For Jennifer Sutherland and Jeanne Larsen

Poem for the man whose sister disappeared

There are stories that break a night’s quiet    trouble spoken once, heard all too well

Damage is shallow, easily repairable claims The psychic, if only scar,

But wound deep is harsh and ever there Yet memory of flesh scarred of days clouds lingering, summer sparse the horizon warning—fog coming autumn’s favor

A call to your earliest encounter with the mystery Of kinship-little brother to bigger sister– Pulling her pony tail, discovering her secret trove of suitors’ love notes, mocking their plaintive pleas house chores, home work, math uneasy singing with the radio on brother protector competitor On the playground, who did cartwheels best

Where is she? What happened –this cold case Decades cold—that woundedness at family gatherings Christians with their version of Elijah’s chair.

You drank whiskey enough to appease the whisky gods, The wrong gods—they don’t point to the story’s end—her aged Face creased by doubting years or upended bones near a river

Huddling terror or accidental falling, A pretty face framed and stored—at least there She can be found, remarked upon, her cartwheel perfected.

Siren Song

I have no metaphors today. All the analogies are taken. No one is wise enough or kind enough or smart enough To say what no body wants to actually (should) say Sex is messy. Humans hurt each other Power shifts depending on who wants what more And everybody knows how to blame.

There is no shame in owning the truth of one’s ambition. Or the tupsy turvy ways in which we switch on or off What we think will get us what we want. He wants sex (maybe) Or she wants sex (maybe) or both think that is what they should Want and then he does something stupid or she acquiesce at An in opportune moment or they find themselves 3 a.m. Waiting for 7 a.m. to come. That’s the easy part. The dull Date part.

It’s the other uglier part that gets the headlines. The mad talk. The guy who just happens to have hands in places where they Received no invitation. The guy who thinks his girlfriend, his wife, His daughter, his sister, his mother is a punching bag—oops that Metaphor. The guy who brings roses for bruises. The guy who Calmly drives his car across the mother of his four children. That guy. He is a menace to society and we all know it. So how does he get a way with doing this daily, hourly by the minute And why are all these roses stomped on?

In the grave are too many women who once had roses For bruises. In offices, too many women who have Had hands placed uninvited across around beneath Their bodies. In homes, there are fathers who find Incest the anecdote for the dreariness of their wives Or maybe it’s the romance of it all.

The romance of it all is done for. But the guys are stealthy and intelligent. It is not the back lash, but the proffered alliance. The sweet tongue trying ever so hard to say Just the right thing to make all the wariness The necessary wariness go away. In Greek mythology Sirens are female, but now the gender’s Changed. Women watch for the rocks Be careful the talk and examine the heart The un-honeyed tongue may be a new undoing.

Fire can take a long time to ignite.

In the Brooklyn Rail:

Patricia Spears Jones is author of A Lucent Fire: New & Selected Poems and nine other poetry publications. She is an editor, literary curator, anthologist, cultural critic, and playwright. She is an Emeritus Fellow at the Black Earth Institute and organizer of the American Poets Congress. She was the 2020 Louis H Rubin Writer-in-Resident at Hollins University. Originally from Arkansas, she calls Brooklyn home.

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