Finalist : Terrain.org 9th Annual Contest in Poetry
To Scatter at Descanso Gardens
Cuando yo me muera, enterradme si queris en una veleta. Cuando yo me muera! ~ Lorca
When evening arrives as a stranger in velvet slippers it has no shadow but you panic at your mirrored reflection in the dark.
It feels like death— a spider waiting and when you leave this body it will weave you into forgetting.
But you want to remember all you’ve ever been a Buddha beneath the Bodhi tree.
Watch your lives burn away like a great forest then the calm the ash.
Sebastián the gardener says he’ll find you again, when he’s troweled the upper fields
and dug the weeds away. He’ll talk to you so you’ll never be lonely.
He knows how deer leap the fence in the closed hours to graze on the sweetest grasses.
How the ghosts of the scrub oaks wander. There are nights
when the moon slips off its white coat and every wild thing stirs in its cauldron.
When the wind rattles the leaves you’ll be buried like Lorca in a weather vane—
the one that stands near the fiery maple how it turns and turns toward the stars cold with memory.
To a Friend at Rilke’s Grave in Raron
Alles ist eins. ~ Rilke for Lia
The black-faced sheep are bleating, their bells
a soft song—a clinking of spoons in tin cups—a call to presence
when the world draws them into its map of the living.
The pines trees know how the dark hum of a new season enters the lungs
like a promise. And if it is a promise how can it be sustained?
I stand in bare feet near my rucksack and the grey slate path
to his grave. The mountains offer distance, the snow a memory of a life
I barely recall. Just the blue repeating of the Alps and from somewhere a chant—
three words that fall from the air as my shadow touches his grave.
And as I whisper them over and over I cannot say he isn’t present.
I cannot say the dead don’t move toward what calls them. Only how the valley stretches
its worn jacket on the grass and begs me to stay. How my heart
is a spinnaker in the wind catching the breath of it. I linger as long
as I can—until the shadow of his cross escapes into darkness. I make my way back
through the mosaic of gravestones and the plots of bright flowers planted
near each grave. Cross the corner where the aspen trembles
and then I see you just as you are—awoken from the place of dreams and I cannot tell where
the soft green slope of the hill ends and your hip begins. I want to say
don’t forget her, she’s still on the hill, her body shaded from October sun—
her face in profile, arms resting on knees as she looks into the deepening vale.
Aren’t parts of us buried in the lands we meet? Our souls broken into bones
sure as flint. There are foxes like wood smoke in the body. They move quietly in the forest.
They know one of their own. They will find you. They will dig you up.
Lois P. Jones is the author of Night Ladder(Glass Lyre Press, 2017). Prize honors include the Lascaux Poetry Prize in 2017, the Bristol Poetry Prize in 2016, and the Tiferet Poetry Prize in 2012. She has work published or forthcoming in New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust (Vallentine Mitchell of London, 2019), Narrative, Tupelo Quarterly,and American Poetry Journal. She is the poetry editor of Kyoto Journal and hosts Pacifica Radio’s Poets Cafe in Los Angeles.
Header and other photos of Descanso Gardens and Raron, Switzerland by Lois P. Jones.