Ol’ Boy (Prose Poem)

(by Daniel R. Jones)

Ol’ boy came by here not but a month ago and I poked my head out just to ask how he’s doing and he says, “I’m doin’, but I dunno how.”

Before you know it, he’s carrying on about how he got his newest scar: laid down his ‘cycle, maybe, or a southpaw caught him across the eye with a mean left hook outside the dive bar off Post and 23rd.

Ask him if he’s got a Kaw or a Yamaha and he’ll get offended, like. Says he spent his younger years under the hoods of Camaros and his daddy would rise out the grave and whip him good if he heard he wasn’t supporting American-made.

He’s got cheeks that look like sandpaper stretched tight and staked down like a tent. He has Ol’ Glory on one arm and the Stars and Bars on the other. If you’re a woman more’n likely he’ll put a rebel streak in you or at least make you feel a little more patriotic, provided you’re on all the right teams: GM and Coca-Cola and Bud Light and Copenhagen. If you aim to go along with him, remember trucks are meant to be lifted and not dropped, pledge allegiance to Ol’ Dixie and shoot Jack if you can’t stomach a shot of straight Diesel. Even if you don’t go along with him, you’ll get on fine, ’cause not a person alive doesn’t like ol’ boy.

Well anyway, he always did say he’d rather be the devil himself than one of his minions; but I’m thinking the jury must not have known him, must not have really known him, else they wouldn’t have convicted him, ’cause murderer or not, ol’ boy never did mean no harm.

Ars Poetica (in Sapphics)

There’s a chasm splitting the signifier
from the signified. All the linguists agree.
Severed from the tangible, words are almost
meaningless, they’ve said.

Poets play contrarian, tasked with standing
in the gap with arms outstretched to meld a vast
rift, and so erase the sunder between our
symbols and concepts.

Word and meaning wed as one, in the minds of
those who poetry reaches. Both in tandem,
planets align: the music of the spheres in splendid,
perfect harmony.

Past Poem: The Woman on the Bus Encounters Time Dilation

Today, I’d like to cross-link a poem I wrote a couple years ago. It was nominated for a 2017 Rhysling Award, which is an award given out by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association.

The poem was originally published by Altered Reality, which is an excellent speculative fiction magazine in its own right. Please check them out when you’re done reading my poem! The link is below:

The Second Greatest Commandment

(by Daniel R. Jones)

He wasn’t bleeding by the side of the road
to Jericho, or ransacked
by a group of marauders

or bruised
or naked
or left for dead.

He just needed a ride home from work.

He didn’t bother asking.
He’d already asked a couple times this week.
His eyes did the asking:

“I know you’re a Samaritan,
but will you be good?”

But my last cup of coffee and my Aleve
were wearing off in tandem,
and my wife and son were seated, already,
around some quickly-cooling Stroganoff.

Father,
brother,
forgive me.

Veering

(by Daniel R. Jones)

I’ve grown fond of the front seat
where I’ve seen you sitting countless nights
ringing out raindrops from a Frogg Togg,
muttering obscenities about the cold.

You’ve sat in that same seat
flicking cherries off the end of your Newport,
singing along to Styx on the stereo
humming through the lines you don’t know.

It was only when the frequency cut out that I realized
just how off-key you were.
You always drove in a straight-line.
I never sensed you were veering.

Your friends warned me you were a fiend.
They said to stay away.
But still we cried together
when your rib disowned you.

She had a sneaking suspicion:
her hero in league with dealers of heroin.
You swore she was overreacting.
But as I watched you drive
I noticed you were veering.

When you lost custody of your son
the part-time prophets
came out of the woodwork.
Even amateur oracles prophesied your death:

He’s a junkie, they said.
He’s riding high on a horse’s back.
And behind the wheel,
I trembled at your veering.

But tonight’s the night
you’d crash the car.
You came through the driver’s side door
with a full arm and empty eyes.

Slurred words and blurred vision.
The smell of burnt rubber.
Passed out at the wheel,
you can’t hear me yelling.

When you come to,
you won’t even admit
you were veering.

The “Check Engine” is on.
You’re running on fumes,
the seatbelt hanging uselessly by your side.
Still, you insist on the driver’s seat.

I’m in the passenger seat
waiting
as always
to take the wheel for you.