M.P. Jones IV


after James Wright

Standing on the stone path
before the cabin door, staring out
at the scarred oak that leaned
in the dooryard, ancient and solemn,
shading the cedar fence and the fire pit
where we gathered until late,
when the stars echoed their bright
syllables across the pasture.

By the time the first branch has fallen
onto the soft loam outside
the windows of the empty house
in the cold afternoon light,
the trunk is already hollow,
mute, illiterate, nearly forgotten
as it strangles with dirt
from the steady motion
of the carpenter ants,

the deliberate sunlight
pressing against everything
like a miller’s wheel,
turning drops of shadow
violently from the hole,
dripping tiny fragments of dark earth
where the black branch hung,
sorrowful and late,
until the orange heart
crumbled to dirt and ruin.

Those owls who nested there
all those long winters would haunt
the deepest nights with songs
of their longing. When the mother
leapt from branch to branch
crying out as her fledglings left,
leaping one-by-one into the fieldgrass.

You would go, grandfather,
so faithfully to clear the debris
from the dying trunk, until your
own body lay in ruin. And the ice
storm came in the night, as I slept
alone in the dark house, with light
from dying embers licking the ceiling.

And the tree threatened, even in its ruin
to survive you in the desolate field,
but it had grown so heavy
with the worn tenor of night,
like the edge of some long road
coming abruptly to its end
before you can even imagine,
that it cannot begin to bear
the weight of  its own memory
or offer its relentless green refuge.

And those owls who knew
not how to weep or were too wise
that nested there have long flown.


M.P. Jones IV recently received a master’s in literature from Auburn University where he read for Southern Humanities Review. He is also founder and editor-in-chief of Kudzu House Quarterly, a journal of southern literature and environment. His poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Painted Bride Quarterly, Harpur Palate, Portland Review, Tampa Review, Cumberland River Review, Canary Magazine, and Town Creek Poetry, among divers others; creative nonfiction has appeared in Sleet Magazine and decomP magazinE. His article on The Shadow of Sirius can be found in the current issue of Merwin Studies; and he is also the author of a poetry collection, Live at Lethe (Sweatshoppe Publications, 2013). He teaches first-year English and creative writing at Point University in West Point, GA. Visit his author’s page: ecopoiesis.com