In Argentina at the finca of an old heiress
I was offered a prize Tempranillo – the wine black
as the dreams of earthworms.
You have never tasted a land like this.
On the mantel a menagerie of saints
and small crystal icons the colors
of the sea. The heiress watched me
with a thirst for salvation,
as the girl rocked with one foot
in the underworld
and her ache to get out.
Her mouth offering its creaks and moans.
How they all looked away
as the cries grew louder,
pushing her oars in the air,
stirring the room with her storm
until she crossed it
to hold my hand and calmed.
My neighbor was from the old country.
Her babushka, the color of a Bezoar goat.
She came toward me on Ash Wednesday
as if as if I were an apparition –
a saint appearing like a gift in her garden.
Her bones had already lost their breath
and her eyes held the remains of villages.
Children too small to walk
the long road, parents strapping them
in boxes on the sides of donkeys. Babies
and the old dying without water or shelter.
Places where the danger hadn’t passed.
At 13 I wanted to be a nun, to love
without need to filter resin from the grape.
I was called to the church more than once –
the church of innocence,
the church of the psychotic father,
the church of womanhood,
the church of poetry and its illuminated manuscripts.
They’ve all burned down except for one
in this half-finished heaven. I clarify wine no more
than I am the saint my neighbor needs. Still,
I smile down at her, not understanding Armenian,
only the gesture as her hand hovers from right
to left shoulder. Am I dead or blessed?
I cannot bring back her ancestors.
Bless the boy who shot the boy
then pointed at his own temple
with an automatic pistol. The mind’s nave closing
over the steel chamber.
Each bullet hand-made
by the father who was found dead
on the floor by his boy
two years before.
Bless the mothers – swans
turned upside down – necks reaching
toward the moss of the seabed.
Bless the 10,000 souls
who gathered in Santa Clarita to grieve the ghosts –
the many who gave thousands
to the shooter’s mother. The ones who said
we must continue to bless all
the empty beds.
for David Whyte
Didn’t it seem as if the nave of the church grew as tall
as a eucalyptus, our silence a mist hovering
above its crown. And didn’t it feel as if he were
holding our silence from across the dais –
certain as his linen shirt as he looked out at the pews,
his eyes reaching into our gorges
of loss, our fractured thoughts of a nation split
down its middle. I thought of the Baruch ברוך
which says G-d is the true source of all blessings.
But I have been kissed on the cheek and it was
a small rain that left nothing but thoughts
of what it was and wasn’t. As if a tree pressed
lips to skin, its green skirting the house of you,
sweeping from room to room, filling the floorboards
with its breath, your walls becoming water
the body forgetting it carried anything at all.
*half-finished heaven from Tomas Tranströmer’s poem of the same name.
About Lois P. Jones
Lois P. Jones was a shortlist prize winner in the 2018 Terrain Poetry Contest judged by Jane Hirshfield. Other awards include the Lascaux Poetry Prize, the Bristol Poetry Prize judged by Liz Berry and the Tiferet Poetry Prize, with work thrice listed for the Bridport Prize and the National Poetry Competition. Jones has work published or forthcoming in Plume, Guerinca Editions (2021), New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust (Vallentine Mitchell of London); Narrative, Verse Daily, Tupelo Quarterly and American Poetry Journal. Her poem Reflections on La Scapigliata was a featured film-poem for the 2019 Visible Poetry Project. She is the Poetry Editor for Kyoto Journal and the host of Pacifica Radio’s Poets Café on KPFK. Her first collection of poems Night Ladder was published by Glass Lyre Press.