Poetry Friday: “The Manifestation” by Richard Jones

Starlit homeI’m a poet and believer. If anyone should spend an evening gazing at a meteor shower, it should be me: dreamer, connector. Hidden under the fingernails of God.

But those Zone 5A clouds seem ever near in August, when the air thickens with cicada song. And to be honest, I’m relieved. The day’s tasks of laundry and writing and breaking up children’s fights is enough to make me collapse in bed or at least loll in front of the flickering lights of Netflix for an hour or so. Knowing it’s too cloudy or late to see the Perseids (must be on time to church!) earns me the right to be lazy of awe.

But Richard Jones’s poem, “Manifestation,” wakes me up.

The speaker insists on abiding with  “glory beyond measure,” even in the late hour and thick fog. Even at the point of despair. But it’s the last three lines I read over and over, the reminder of the mundane wonder that burns every night, at least until it’s extinguished.

Tania Runyan


“The Manifestation” by Richard Jones

The night of the Perseid shower,
thick fog descended
but I would not be denied.
I had put the children to bed,
knelt with them,
and later
in the quiet kitchen
as tall red candles
burned on the table between us,
I’d listened to my wife’s sweet imprecations,
her entreaties to see a physician.
But at the peak hour—
after she had gone to bed,
and neighboring houses
stood solemn and dark—
I felt no human obligation
and went without hope into the yard.
In the white mist
beneath the soaked and dripping trees,
I lifted my eyes
into a blind nothingness of sky
and shivered in a white robe.
I couldn’t see the outline
of the neighbor’s willows,
much less the host of streaking meteorites
no bigger than grains of sand
blazing across the sky.
I questioned the mind, my troubled thinking,
and chided myself to go in,
but looking up,
I thought of the earth
on which I stood,
my own
scanty plot of ground,
and as the lights passed unseen
I imagined glory beyond all measure.
Then I turned to the lights in the windows—
the children’s nightlights,
and my wife’s reading lamp, still burning.

 

Image above is by Brandon Atkinson, licensed by Creative Commons.

Richard Jones is the author of seven books of poems, including Apropos of Nothing, The Blessing, and The Correct Spelling & Exact Meaning, all from Copper Canyon Press. Editor of the literary journal Poetry East, he is a professor of English at DePaul University in Chicago.

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A Poet Walks Into a Business Networking Event

Wine GlassesThe poet gives a young woman $15 for admission, squeezes her drink ticket like a talisman.

Voices roar like surf.

The poet straightens her arms so she can shimmy through the crowd. She must reach the color-coded name tags. There’s a palette of categories: Tech, Finance, Start-up, Health. She must decide between Arts, yellow, or Marketing, red.

If she chooses yellow, she’ll marginalize herself. Yellow’s for novelties, freaks. If she chooses red, she’ll forsake her tribe, the writers who flounce through her photos in flowing skirts. Tonight she wears a tailored dress. A necklace strung with crystal squares. [Read more…]

Flying into Fear, Part 2

Read Part 1 here

What a strange airline it was!

My fear of flying made every flight I took an exhausting process of dread, panic, relief, and guilt. Mental health issues usually require a variety of strategies to overcome. Healing is more art than science, a process of trial and error with fingerprint individuality. For me, therapy on its own wasn’t cutting it.

I’d heard more than once that information doesn’t help the phobic person, that irrationality can’t be countered with facts. That was not the case with me. I sought out information to set my brain grooves aright. I read Patrick Smith’s book Ask the Pilot: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel, which communicates the science and safety of flight with frankness and humor.

I also started to spend time on the SOAR Fear of Flying forum online, where Captain Tom Bunn puts all manner of fearful flyers at ease with data about planes and the human brain. (In short, planes are a lot more predictable and reliable.) [Read more…]

Flying into Fear, Part 1

PlaneYears ago, I worked with a woman who sold her car after a spider’s nest fell on the roof. Although her husband seemed to have cleared all spiders from the interior, she could not bring herself to open that door. Ever again.

I knew another woman who took anti-anxiety meds regularly on the off chance she’d encounter a snake at her Midwestern office job.

And how can we forget public speaking, all those students who stay home from school on presentation day beset with digestive difficulties as they dread the encroaching next?

Of course, these fears have always seemed irrational to me. By definition, phobias are irrational. Spiders and snakes rarely kill anyone. And public speaking? What’s the worst that can happen? [Read more…]

Poetry Friday: “Creed in the Santa Ana Winds” by Bronwen Butter Newcott

Bronwen Poetry Friday Pic 2Growing up in southern California, I experienced the uneasy allure of the Santa Ana’s hot fall and winter winds that swept down from Nevada’s Great Basin. They whipped up the dust and screamed against the windowpanes. In the drier mountain areas, they ignited fires; in my coastal town, they seemed to blow the stars through the air. As legendary as the full moon, the winds sparked dangers physical and fantastical. Did the fault lines lose their grip in the heat of these gales? Did we? In “Creed in the Santa Ana Winds,” Bronwen Butter Newcott captures—or, shall I say, chases—the fury of the Santa Ana’s in the shadow of an even more powerful, and incalculable, Creator. Her exacting imagery blows those winds through my soul again, two decades after I left.

—Tania Runyan


Creed in the Santa Ana Winds by Bronwen Butter Newcott

You believe He’s stronger than the desert wind
butting against the fence, wind that ignites sagebrush,
tears through the hills and strips the houses to ash.

Despite your lips that crack till blood comes,
skin that grows rough between your fingers,
you believe He will be solid to your touch

the way the bay is slate each dusk, broken only by fish
that hurl themselves toward the pearling sky.
The wind that takes a voice in the night

makes the house uneasy, shouts as the fence flattens.
You stand watching the junipers thrash and knit pleas
into the darkness; you believe He hears. In the morning,

there are six dead kittens on the driveway, a cat
moaning beneath the house. You pick them up by the neck
and put them in the trash. One day, you believe,

God will blow this all down, skin the world
to dust and water and make something new, but for now,
the noise of trees thrashed and cracked covers the ground.

 

Bronwen Butter Newcott grew up in Washington, DC. After completing her MFA, she moved to southern California with her husband where she taught high school, art journal workshops, and had her first two children. She now lives in the DC area with her family. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Smartish Pace, Poet Lore, and other publications.

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