Autumn, New York, 1999

Patricia Spears Jones

And I am full of worry I wrote to a friend
Worry, she replied about what—love, money, health?

All of them, I wrote back. It’s autumn, the air is clear
and you hear death music—the rattle of leaves swirling

the midnight cat howling, a newborn baby’s 3 am
call for food or help or heart’s love

At the market, the green, red and yellow apples are piled high,
sweet perfume—once, I went apple picking in Massachusetts

a day of thralling beauty, my companions and I
had no desire to leave the valley—the plump trees,

the fierce pride of small town New England where a gift shop
exploded gingham, calico, silly stuffed toys

we stood within this shrine to cloying femininity of entwined hearts
and ribbons and bows like invading aliens, fascinated and appalled

and here too, people throng around the dahlias—
the last of the bright fat flowers. Open. Scentless.

It is going to be a very hard winter and we all know it in our bones
an almost atavistic memory with instruction—wear heavy clothes
horde food, drink water, stand against the wind

listen.

More by Patricia Spears Jones

Jim

You looked Texas today
road hard, scrubbed brush, blown tires
gasoline islands

But later California returned—fortune’s poster child
radiating. Truck full of gas,
cheap camera in the glove compartment
stuffed toys on the dashboard,
beads on the steering wheel,
a pretty girl’s picture—fatherly devotion.

What is lost when love ceases
is the power to forget

the early sweetness, the late bitter
talk, the longing for renewal—we all want
Spring, but

Spring does not want us.

Persevere, the skies murmur. Persevere
you weeping poets. You funny beasts.
Hopeful and hurting breathing dragons’

magic fire. Dry seasons last much too long
which is why deserts are vast. Floods don’t help,
but days of chilly showers make for blossoms pink,
blue, violet. A soft evasion.

Drink from the lake’s glacial cup. Hope for better
winters.

A pillow in the city

Ghostly falls from the fifteenth floor
Feathers leaking/ the pillow speaking

How the sleeper's nightly pounding
Made the pillow yelp and moan

Poor sleeper heard these comments
Angered threw said pillow into

An ugly summer night's air

The pillow had little choice
The sleeper's fists. The sleeper's mouth

Not kind, not soft, always angry
The sleeper always angry—even

Dreaming the sleeper could not
Stop rage, so the bed was a battlefield
The pillow, an enemy. And now

Said enemy slowly plunges towards
The courtyard deflated, a feral squirrel

Watches the fall, moves on towards
The overflowing garbage bins, nose open
Time to feast.

Dancer

The man with the black feather tattoo pares this space
Between fantasy and the memory of a man’s carved
Torso, designed for stroking and celebration.

Today the sun’s brightness is like that lover’s kiss,
Wonderful in the present and greater in memory.

A memory that brings me back to that black feather’s
Flutter. Stars dazzle in some other part of this world
Where the sun has set and the moon illuminates
Swans diving into voluminous waters.