The Plight of the Poet (poem)

(by Daniel R. Jones)

There you are, camera in hand
at the rim of the Grand Canyon
or else overlooking the Niagara
or even craning your neck
at the domed head of the Taj Mahal.

Before you snap
the photo, you hesitate.

Gorgeous, though it is,
you know the camera
can’t capture it.
The sublimity
won’t translate
to a 1×1 inch
viewfinder.

This is the plight of the poet, friend.
This is my dilemma, even now, as I sit,
having felt something so profound,
but afraid I’ll trivialize it
if I dare to immortalize it
on this blank, ivory page.

The Wolves are Inadmissible who refuse to lie down with the lamb (poem)

(by Daniel R. Jones)

We’re a peculiar people; out of context,
and those are two separate clauses.
But a faction of the dead can’t long for heaven 
if the swords must be beaten to plowshares 
and spears to pruning hooks.

The Cherubim, fierce and fey with 
hot steel flickering side to side
stand guard at the gates of Paradise, saying:
“The wolves are inadmissible
who refuse to lie down with the Lamb.”

But the goats on the left
follow a star that doesn’t lead to Bethlehem.
“No matter,” they say. 
“It’s heaven enough to prove the atheists wrong.”
The goats proceed to damnation.

Meanwhile, Jesus took bread, saying
“Take, eat; this is my body.”
And his body, blessed and broken
was plenty sufficient for the multitude.
How is it that ye do not understand?

Maternal Charades (poem)

(by Daniel R. Jones)

I walked in on my wife
playing charades.
Our children didn’t know
they were part of the game.
Some days, she didn’t know either.

TWO WORDS

Rubbing together two needles
like the legs of a cricket,
she conjures hats, scarves,
amigurumi monsters
the children take to bed.

FIRST WORD: MATERNAL

If I squint it looks like ritual,
the tedium of bedtime routine:
overnight diaper, dinosaur jammies
read two books and brush your teeth.
Boys to the bunkbeds, girl to the crib.

SECOND WORD: LOVE

Golden curls encircle
lavender bubbles;
soap-soaked fur of a
labrador doodle.
This is love by proxy.

Care for the children
through care for the dog
bought for them to care for.
A pantomime, an acting out
of the second word.

MATERNAL LOVE

This motherhood is a lifelong game of charades.
The children have an inkling, I think,
that the swabbing of walls stained with crayon,
and the meticulous slicing of hotdogs
is pantomime, a charade of that larger abstraction.

The clues are there and the message pans out.
But they never do understand the scope,
the magnitude of what’s being hinted at.
Even as a parent myself, I suppose,
I never plumb the depths entirely.

The Slow Angel (Poem)

(Note: this poem was originally published by “Anxious Poet Society” in December 2018)

The Angel of Death
doesn’t have wings.
He’s the only angel
not in a hurry.

He’s no blood-hound
stalking my scent
with a snarl and
gnashing teeth.

He’s detached.
Almost bored.

He tails my car
as I shuttle myself
to the office, the gym,
the grocery.

I’ve caught him yawning
in my periphery, to say,
“Your middling existence
warrants no haste.

Don’t lose sleep over Death.
You’ve been dead for years.
My message is redundant;
a formality, really.”

Come Dirty (poem)

(by Daniel R. Jones)

“This is a holy moment,” dad said,
pouring my vodka down the kitchen sink.
“You need to know I’m proud.”

But my sixteen-year-old brain
toggled between godly sorrow
and utter shame.

In terms of salvation,
“come clean,” is a most
unfortunate misnomer.

We tend to come 
dirty, broken
and afraid.

80-proof Smirinoff
circling down
the drain

like some backwards 
Old Testament
drink offering.

A holy moment, indeed.

Not Chess

by Daniel R. Jones

(Note: this poem was originally published by Anxious Poet Society in their November 2018 issue.)

It’s nothing like a chess problem,
the toggling ardor,
this advance and retreat;
forward then back all black,
white and cerebral. 

It’s nothing like chess;
like the leather hand
stuck to a black bishop
I saw in a public park,
an ancient mind whirring overhead. 

It’s not chess,
but one could be forgiven
for assuming it was that
premeditated.
More like a dance. 

An ebb and flow,
fluid undulation of hips
he pedals her back.
She retreats, persists,
parries and twists; 

she comes on again
and he surrenders
before regrouping to
flit forward.
The two wax and wane. 

She was head and hands
when all he’d ever known
were girls made up of wrist and throat- 
Romances filled to the brim with heat and steam–
that fissured and cracked
when they cooled too quickly. 

It’s nothing like chess
in any way whatsoever,
save one. 
The Queen’s range of motion
far outmatches the King’s. 

And maybe it’s something of a game.
Amusing, at least, when she quotes Hemingway:
”What do you want to do?
Ruin me?”
“Yes. I want to ruin you.”