Poetry by Shannon tate Jonas from battle sleep
I can’t do it anymore
shed the scent of my birth
& its undelivered light
inside the mountain’s fog
one mountain loves another
the shapes of trees
I divine my sleep
the shape of snowfall & light
I’ve told no one the whereabouts
of my intent
to vow a silence
that cannot last
& then there is the shape
of light the shape of bird flight
the shape of my mind
the absence of a celestial
in the sky of our world
the births that do not give
Dear Sor Savant,
Once a sparrow fell judged by God for truancy; for truancy of man that He would not pardon for man’s looks or kisses alone—
I see a hawk has a sparrow rent wide & bad bad fan on the horizon down in ol’ Virginny
I walk no other way than downwind so the bad ones can’t find me
O to be home again. SKOAL! Yr Turrble Brother “Ghost Ship”
P.S. Will you be at the reunion in September? Please write me back.
I watch people talk to people watching people how do people talk look at how mouths move
How does my mouth move does it move at all when I lie w/o wife or dog in front of the stove
P.S.S. Don’t be mad but I left the hatchet out and someone ran off w/it.
Probbly the boiler man w/two left feet and a dead bride. Hell—keep it.
Not many people understand me when I talk b/c I mumble so much
& get made fun of always have I don’t mind anymore but know that & such & such
I always wanted to be around baseball parks. I never wanted to leave town but I had to.
When dogs bark when I can’t see them I wonder what at. Look how quick hills fall down.
You & I down in ol’ Virginny Christ why can’t time stop not go back because that won’t
Happen but just stop you know how things change when you close your eyes so don’t
When I can’t sleep I close my eyes and think about a flagpole in the middle of a field
& the sound it makes when the wind clinks the chain against the pole. There it goes.
I see I never learned to dress myself only how to look in the mirror are we taught that
The saddest songs don’t have words I don’t have words to tell how I am or am not
There was a circuit rider who asked “why starve yourself of light. It’s all around.” Alright
I said, so to Hell I’ll go, even if my brother won’t be there with me. But you will, right?
There are shapes there are contoured abstractions there is shape to the world
There’s always a way out there’s daily breads & births hands to grasp the void
No unavoidable surgeries I say. Where did I hear that somewhere? It’s funny the way
people just one day are sick they are told, and prepare to die. One by one it happens it does.
Where is home to you where does yr blood hail from somehow every life is valid & sure
Where is it I go to to feel home I can’t say I can’t tell sometimes home seems like a door
You suffer of rare pride brother. I finished this letter before I started it. The jaybird told me.
I work hard to be an honest so and so. Gawd is it easy to lie like Gawd don’t want none of me.
India India India where is home to you do you understand what I say when I speak
No one sings songs but say they do I would rather not talk I guess than not eat for a week
I’d be homeless without a wife. I’d inhabit a hive of snow before I thought I was alive.
Beds & churches are hard to warm inside of. If wakefulness were prayer I’d live forever.
Night drags its empty buckets against the trails with wrists smooth as well water
But this is not a dream—a somnambulist walking on stilts across the marsh to a muck-island
Sor, this letter is not a letter, like a baseball hat I swear yr soul’s on me like a brand. You know what I’d
die for: the premise for yr embrace. Most fields I’ve stood inside of. This empty room. That word.
Do you think I’m here I think I’m here when the clock inside my head winds out
Like a broken lightbulb in the basement that you don’t want to change b/c it’s night
Sor, to bottle moths, & a lantern between his teeth, sor, is the insomniac’s only tackle,
the dipsomaniac that changed the world. Remember the name: father, son, & holy ghost.
a nickel for every time
I was standing in our sixth floor hotel room window watching cars silently move below me in a famous city we were visiting. Again it occurred to me that there are all these things & places that are said to exist & events that are said to exist, but how can they exist unless I experience them myself. The old problem: the hackneyed wooden wagon that wanders the streets of the mind calling for dead cinder filled ash boxes & vials of gathered pollen & stamens for cures. The herbivores congested with swarms of teeth. The talk of it all amongst the neophytes, the glib news subscribers. The unemployed instrument tuners.
What a collection of wine-stained tapestries.
Beauty has not died of sweat or starvation.
I suppose the series of rather inarticulate notes I pounded out upon the piano in the church as a child were not composed measures but a song still. I welcome sleep by thinking “oh so long ago, so long ago.” What in the world that won’t affect my dreams I will. Attending the national pastime with parasols & Russian novels. Falsettoed ceilings of azure. Anything brought back from ruin. The first cup I shattered whole again. The cup of my friend’s childhood. The anniversary of your voice. You, the last word, you.
no sign of getting much better. but good luck to you & india
I clutch the hazel eyes of my father
in my sleep dreaming of walking
the tracks with my father’s lantern
looking for bodies
of deer & windblown derby hats from town
& the entirely underlined book
from the night before on my mind
the aureate nature of my telling
brutal grace follows realism
the transcended field I will tell you of later
my only one we were born in the same place & now lie down
what in the dark is essential?
I’ll be that
this book is for my sister
I do not have a sister. I do have a brother.
Though we share the same parents, my brother
was not weaned on our mother‘s milk. We channel
this harped & hided world. I have my many echoes.
My brother has his own—myself, which I suggested he lose.
He did, & I waited nearly twenty years to see him again.
He showed up with a folded newspaper under his right arm
which hid a long sharp knife. Discovering his knife I told him
of the many spiders & their many eyes that shared my house.
I said, Ultimately, everything I do, I do for our sister. He said,
Indeed. It was then that he doffed his hat, made his exit,
& went in search of the graves of our grandparents.