One Poem. One Planet. April 12, 2017

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12.

She draws the outline
of Africa
in the air between us
My country is here

the tip of her finger
taps the space where Senegal
would be

I’m about to ask
if they have lions?
and if there’s tall grass
for them to stalk through?

We were the first
democratic country
in Africa

In the air between us

is her smile and a population
40 million Muslims and Christians
who catch buses and ride bicycles
in the striped shadows
of tall spires

I see her younger self
carrying shopping bags
on the street, calling out
the names of her neighbors
above a shining river of traffic.
Bonjour Bonjour

Later I google the lions
of West Africa–
only 16 left
in Niokola Kobe National Park

in the country of Senegal
in the air between us

–Arlitia Jones, April 12, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 11, 2017

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11.

Who can see?

After
bombs
falling

the clatter
downpour
of debris
dust

on jagged walls … … smoke climbing
the ladder of wind

to furl and hook
into the lungs
of the next city

over

every throat
seared

the wide-eyed stars
in first contact
people on those worlds
a thousand years
from now
screaming

-Arlitia Jones, April 11, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 10, 2017

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10.

Moon Fragment

If I invented a new language,
the word for heart would be
the same word for otter

the word for moon
would also be monk

the word muse,
the word duck

-Arlitia Jones, April 10, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 9, 2017

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9.
On the road going past her land
we found one sock, a filthy thing
she said belonged to the bogey man

who comes at dawn looking for work,
his whole body wrapped in socks to keep warm
a woolen mummy with a red mouth
and seeping eyes

If I needed anymore evidence
she knew all the signs for terror
l had the new mole on my elbow
proof trolls dropped out of the ducts
while I slept to lick my skin, a physic
for their warted tongues,
just like she said would happen

No neighbors in sight,
I lived the pastoral summer with her in the squat house
in the middle of the field where the sky
liked to rest its heavy blue foot

Wheat-fringed horizon on all sides,
we stayed within our bounds
so the night we heard her garden gate crash open
when I tried to go to the window
she grabbed my arm to keep me
beside her on the couch.
Pay no mind. Witches can’t abide locks

In the tent of light thrown by one lamp
we pretended not to hear, I pretended to read a book,
she pretended to darn some torn relic
as night swirled around the house,
the dark whispered and cursed, conspired
to rob the old woman blind

The next morning, on hands and knees
she scooped dirt into the heart-sized holes
where beets used to be. She re-mounded
her potato hills and clucked her tongue
damn fools went right past the cucumbers
perfectly ripe

When I asked her why would witches steal
when they could do magic, anyway
she kept her eyes on the earth
They’re hungry

Later in the afternoon heat
when I started to shiver
Means spiders running across the sun.

–Arlitia Jones, April 9, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 8, 2017

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8.
Inside the earth
I prayed for violence
waited for the frozen rind
above me to fracture

when I heard the snow
let down its damp
runnels of bright music
tunneling downward
seeking lake bottom in my ear,
I took stock of my vertebrae
puzzled them back into place
renouncing my hunched devotion
to this myth

I wove my collarbones
back into their basket,
de-chimed my ribs
and let go the clack
curled in my hands

Enamored
of new flesh softening my sharpness
I started to suspect
I am meant for blooming

and so what happens next—
the clawing sound,
the soil tearing above me
sunlight’s thick blade cleaving
the howling of the old woman—

comes as shock—her rusted hands
clutching, lifting me out of the husk
of every wrong ever done to her

She’s kept my name all this time
and when she says it
I feel the spade striking
buried rocks.

–Arlitia Jones, April 8, 2017

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7.
Tonight, cumulus clouds mound
in rubble heaps above the inlet

The gods have ruined
their city, their shining

halls and avenues of mist
all silent and deserted

In a hundred years from now
it will be hearsay

these same gods
ever composed a song

or planted fragrant gardens.
Our generation

will be gone, in our place we will
have left folded schematics

for locks and graveyards
filled with black lung

Then, in a thousand years from now
cumulus clouds will re-open

billowing white chrysanthemums
extinct beauty sailing out from myth

–Arlitia Jones, April 7, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 7, 2017

One Poem. One Planet. April 6, 2017

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6.
We love Tomahawks,
said General McCaffey,
but they aren’t effective
if you’re trying to crater
an airstrip

while the news clip shows
a Tomahawk busting
down the sky
to get at it’s target

He went on: The Air Force
has some amazing weapons
for cratering an airstrip

But tonight we’re using Tomahawks–
on this first night of war
our generals speak of love.

–Arlitia Jones, April 6, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 5, 2017

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5.
Though we have shattered our throats with rage
our words bounce like rocks against armored walls

when you call dead children
somebody else’s responsibility

nothing means anything
and we choke on babble

our mouths fill with disgust
revulsion, despair
and it means nothing

Then today, I found a new fear
holding up the palace of grief,

if they have already taken our outrage
what’s next but our wonder and awe

yesterday, turning from the wound of the world
for a moment I saw a lynx in the woods

pale as smoke padding across pocked snow.
She was gray and brown, let me bear witness,

her ears were tufted. Quiet awareness among the trees.
She was not tremendous. Or fantastic.

Nothing terrific about her, and she’s never said
really really nice things about anyone.

She was a surprise encounter
on painful day and I almost forgot to mention her.

–Arlitia Jones, April 5, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 4, 2017

  
4. 

No gray spin today
only the whitened skin
of children sprawled in death

There are people whose job
it is to pull bodies from rubble

There are people whose job
it is to stand at the edges
of this place on earth
everything closed
their faces, hearts and fists,

the borders closed. No refuge.
People whose job it is
to improve and restock chemical weapons
went to work today.

–Arlitia Jones, April 4, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 3, 2017

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3.
Fragment from a notebook

War answers our need
to kill other countries’ children

Extinguished flames
rise in white arrows

War is
our need to kill children

-Arlitia Jones
April 3, 2017

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