Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"J" is for Rodney "J"ones

I just randomly chose this poet as I was scanning one of my favorite poetry websites.  The poet is Rodney Jones.  I'm not well-read on contemporary poets (though trying to become moreso).  Jones grew up on rural Alabama which is known for poverty and illiteracy--themes related are reflected in his works.  He stated in an interview, "Many of our neighbors were illiterate, but books were the alternative and, even among the illiterate, there was a vital oral tradition: stories, jokes, music, memorized scripture."

Down the street, someone must be praying, and though I don’t
Go there anymore, I want to at times, to hear the diction
And the tone, though the English pronoun for God is obsolete—

What goes on is devotion, which wouldn’t change if I heard:
The polished sermon, the upright’s arpeggios of vacant notes.
What else could unite widows, bankers, children, and ghosts?
And those faces are so good as they tilt their smiles upward
To the rostrum that represents law, and the minister who
Represents God beams like the white palm of the good hand
Of Christ raised behind the baptistry to signal the multitude,
Which I am not among, though I feel the abundance of calm
And know the beatitude so well I do not have to imagine it,

Or the polite old ones who gather after the service to chat,
Or the ritual linen of Sunday tables that are already set.
More than any other days, Sundays stand in unvarying rows

That beg attention: there is that studied verisimilitude
Of sanctuary, so even mud and bitten weeds look dressed up
For some eye in the distant past, some remote kingdom

Where the pastures are crossed by thoroughly symbolic rivers.
That is why the syntax of prayers is so often reversed,
Aimed toward the dead who clearly have not gone ahead

But returned to prior things, a vista of angels and sheep,
A desert where men in robes and sandals gather by a tree.
Hushed stores, all day that sense a bell is about to ring—

I recognized it, waking up, before I weighed the bulk of news
Or saw Saturday night’s cars parked randomly along the curb,
And though I had no prayer, I wanted to offer something

Or ask for something, perhaps out of habit, but as the past
Must always be honored unconsciously, formally, and persists
On this first and singular day, though I think of it as last.
Listen to this author read his own work at the following link:  Rodney Jones' Life on Sundays

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