One Poem. One Planet. April 19, 2017

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19.

Notebook Fragment

Across the forest floor,
beneath shadow of spruce
and mountain ash
the daughters of the wind

go forth

… … … multiply

numerous as stars
a temporary galaxy
at our feet—

anemones to us,
we are mystery at great distance
to them

–Arlitia Jones, April 19, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 18, 2017

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18.

The bear was as surprised as we were
suddenly face to face on a trail that had ceased
being a trail at least a decade ago when miners
quit this worthless claim

I am alive!
declared the bear

We are in love!
And lost!

we said, backing away
Hey, Bear. Hey, Bear.

Above us mountains held the blue milk sky
of the in-between season—
not winter, not spring—unlovely April
with its dingy grass and slick mud

Husband and wife celebrating the anniversary
of their life-long joining , lost in the water-song of melt,
calling out to the bear and the un-beautiful world
as if our tongues were made of flowers

that bloom a month from now,
anemones high in the mountains.

Let us renew our vows, Bear, let us pass, Bear

into the birch, tall-throats waiting
for their green voice to ripen.
Hey, Bear. Hey. The bear considered us,
sniffed the earth then left us to our troth

— Arlitia Jones, April 18, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 17, 2017

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17.

Spring Haiku

The world did not end
in war. Dawn pinks the mountains
and the brown bear wakes

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One Poem. One Planet. April 16, 2017

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16.

Portrait of the Demi-Goddess as a Child

There came a day when my father, a powerful and wealthy king
(he was a butcher)

Lifted me up to set me high atop the back of a gleaming black mare.
(It was a Huffy banana bike. She was pink.)

She cantered and tossed her head. I smoothed her neck. Her name was Sheila.
(Her name was Sheila.)

My short legs were barely long enough to hold the curve of her ribs
(I couldn’t reach the pedals)

The King declared me confined to an Empire the breadth of a day’s ride in any direction.
(Our driveway and the street in front of the house.)

But Sheila’s mane was silver and her tail flowed like water when she ran.
(silver handlebar tassels)

Along her spine, my velvet cape flared like a blue wing wherever we went
(I tied a dishtowel around my neck)

and wherever we went we galloped. Headlong. Breathless. We ran away to Ghost Mountain
(To the top of Deadman’s Hill)

where highwaymen beat their horses and turned them out on rocky cliffs.
(mean boys always drop their bikes in the dirt)

Braggarts who blocked the way of any traveler, tested themselves against all comers.
(You know, a guy really died on this hill.)

Together, Sheila and I made up a single body of will and speed.
(Bet you’re too chicken.)

Sheila was the best of horses, she’d always done whatever I asked–
(I pointed my front tire downhill)

So, now I asked her for her cherished legs, her roaring heart. I was fearless.
(I was fearless.)

–Arlitia Jones, April 16, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 14, 2017

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14.

Before and after have places.
—Lao Tzu (604-531 BCE)

Between fear and hope
now is where we are

now is the weight in the hand of ripened daylight
or it is the agile joke where laughter leaps from the tongue

now is the bright notes of a robin’s song spinning
inside the tornado, it’s also the mangled lawn chair

now is the blank ceiling that shelters us
when a star drops its gold coins from so high up

now is the disappearance of the moth vibrating its wings
same as it is the brown bat banked in careening flight

now is the bridge with missing slats
between birth and death–deliberate faith or folly

in between before and after, that coaxes
our first step onto the water’s back

–Arlitia Jones, April 14, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 13, 2017

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13.

The walls of the cathedral in Lima are made of stone mortared together
with a million egg whites from the sea birds that to this day
nest in perennial multitude on the nearby rocks elbowing out of the Pacific.

The workers used what they had to hand, our tour guide tells us.
Over the mountains, for instance, where there are no sea birds,
the workers cemented their cathedral with the blood of oxen.

It’s easier to crack a few eggs, than to slaughter the ox, no?
A few eggs and the leg bones of believers for bedrock under magnificence.
I raised my eyes to the domed vault. I looked a really long time.

God’s not up there, I thought—but what I say is: what did they do with the yolks?

In the catacombs it’s immediately obvious that cracked skulls
without their lower jaws, stacked one on top of the other
resemble punctured egg shells shucked of their gold.

–Arlitia Jones, April 13, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 12, 2017

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12.

She draws the outline
of Africa
in the air between us
My country is here

the tip of her finger
taps the space where Senegal
would be

I’m about to ask
if they have lions?
and if there’s tall grass
for them to stalk through?

We were the first
democratic country
in Africa

In the air between us

is her smile and a population
40 million Muslims and Christians
who catch buses and ride bicycles
in the striped shadows
of tall spires

I see her younger self
carrying shopping bags
on the street, calling out
the names of her neighbors
above a shining river of traffic.
Bonjour Bonjour

Later I google the lions
of West Africa–
only 16 left
in Niokola Kobe National Park

in the country of Senegal
in the air between us

–Arlitia Jones, April 12, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 11, 2017

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11.

Who can see?

After
bombs
falling

the clatter
downpour
of debris
dust

on jagged walls … … smoke climbing
the ladder of wind

to furl and hook
into the lungs
of the next city

over

every throat
seared

the wide-eyed stars
in first contact
people on those worlds
a thousand years
from now
screaming

-Arlitia Jones, April 11, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 9, 2017

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9.
On the road going past her land
we found one sock, a filthy thing
she said belonged to the bogey man

who comes at dawn looking for work,
his whole body wrapped in socks to keep warm
a woolen mummy with a red mouth
and seeping eyes

If I needed anymore evidence
she knew all the signs for terror
l had the new mole on my elbow
proof trolls dropped out of the ducts
while I slept to lick my skin, a physic
for their warted tongues,
just like she said would happen

No neighbors in sight,
I lived the pastoral summer with her in the squat house
in the middle of the field where the sky
liked to rest its heavy blue foot

Wheat-fringed horizon on all sides,
we stayed within our bounds
so the night we heard her garden gate crash open
when I tried to go to the window
she grabbed my arm to keep me
beside her on the couch.
Pay no mind. Witches can’t abide locks

In the tent of light thrown by one lamp
we pretended not to hear, I pretended to read a book,
she pretended to darn some torn relic
as night swirled around the house,
the dark whispered and cursed, conspired
to rob the old woman blind

The next morning, on hands and knees
she scooped dirt into the heart-sized holes
where beets used to be. She re-mounded
her potato hills and clucked her tongue
damn fools went right past the cucumbers
perfectly ripe

When I asked her why would witches steal
when they could do magic, anyway
she kept her eyes on the earth
They’re hungry

Later in the afternoon heat
when I started to shiver
Means spiders running across the sun.

–Arlitia Jones, April 9, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 8, 2017

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8.
Inside the earth
I prayed for violence
waited for the frozen rind
above me to fracture

when I heard the snow
let down its damp
runnels of bright music
tunneling downward
seeking lake bottom in my ear,
I took stock of my vertebrae
puzzled them back into place
renouncing my hunched devotion
to this myth

I wove my collarbones
back into their basket,
de-chimed my ribs
and let go the clack
curled in my hands

Enamored
of new flesh softening my sharpness
I started to suspect
I am meant for blooming

and so what happens next—
the clawing sound,
the soil tearing above me
sunlight’s thick blade cleaving
the howling of the old woman—

comes as shock—her rusted hands
clutching, lifting me out of the husk
of every wrong ever done to her

She’s kept my name all this time
and when she says it
I feel the spade striking
buried rocks.

–Arlitia Jones, April 8, 2017

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