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Richard Jones

What Do You Do About Dry Periods In Your Writing?

When the writing is going well,
I am a prince in a desert palace,
fountains flowing in the garden.
I lean an elbow on a velvet pillow
and drink from a silver goblet,
poems like a banquet
spread before me on rugs
with rosettes the damask of blood.
But exiled
from the palace, I wander --
crawling on burning sand,
thirsting on barren dunes,
believing a heartless mirage no less true
than palms and pools of the cool oasis.


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How Did You Meet Your Wife?

Swimming the English Channel,
struggling to make it to Calais,
I swam into Laura halfway across.
My body oiled for warmth,
black rubber cap on my head,
eyes hidden behind goggles,
I was exhausted, ready to drown,
when I saw her coming toward me,
bobbing up and down between waves,
effortlessly doing a breaststroke,
heading for Dover. Treading water
I asked in French if she spoke English,
and she said, "Yes, I'm an American."
I said, "Hey, me too," then asked her out for coffee.


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The Road

I, too, would ease my old car to a stop
on the side of some country road
and count the stars or admire a sunset
or sit quietly through an afternoon....

I'd open the door and go walking
like James Wright across a meadow,
where I might touch a pony's ear and
break into blossom; or, like Hayden

Carruth, sustained by the sight
of cows grazing in pastures at night,
I'd stand speechless in the great darkness;
I'd even search on some well-traveled road

like Phil Levine in this week's New Yorker,
the poet driving his car to an orchard
outside the city where, for five dollars,
he fills a basket with goddamned apples.

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Tree

When the sun goes down
I have my first drink
standing in the yard,
talking to my neighbor
about the alder tree
rising between our houses,
a lowly tree that prospered
from our steady inattention
and shot up quick as a weed
to tower over our rooftops,
where it now brandishes
a rich, luxuriant crown.
Should we cut it down?
Neither of us wants to --
we agree that we like
the flourishing branches,
shade like thick woods.
We don't say it,
studying our tree in silence,
but we know that if the roots

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Letter Of Recommendation From My Father To My Future Wife

During the war, I was in China.
Every night we blew the world to hell.
The sky was purple and yellow
like his favorite shirt.

I was in India once
on the Ganges in a tourist boat.
There were soldiers,
some women with parasols.
A dead body floated by
going in the opposite direction.
My son likes this story
and requests it each year at Thanksgiving.

When he was twelve,
there was an accident.
He almost went blind.
For three weeks he lay in the hospital,
his eyes bandaged.
He did not like visitors,

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Sacrifices

All winter the fire devoured everything --
tear-stained elegies, old letters, diaries, dead flowers.
When April finally arrived,
I opened the woodstove one last time
and shoveled the remains of those long cold nights
into a bucket, ash rising
through shafts of sunlight,
as swirling in bright, angelic eddies.
I shoveled out the charred end of an oak log,
black and pointed like a pencil;
half-burnt pages
sacrificed
in the making of poems;
old, square handmade nails
liberated from weathered planks
split for kindling.
I buried my hands in the bucket,
found the nails, lifted them,
the phoenix of my right hand
shielded with soot and tar,

[...] Read more

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