Friday, April 14, 2017

Reflections on the Dark Water - M. P. Jones (Solomon & George Publishers)

Today's book of poetry:
Reflections on the Dark Water.   M.P. Jones.  Solomon & George Publishers.  Opelika, Alabama.  2016.

M. P. Jones is sitting on the side of my desk all Reflections on the Dark Water and quiet, a genteel version of Ashokan Farewell is sounding quiet from the box and for a moment Today's book of poetry is back in the American South.  All we need now is the ghost of Shelby Foote to amble forth from the next room and regale us with his melodious wisdom.

M. P.  (Madison) Jones sets a big table with Reflections on the Dark Water.  Jim Morrison, Emily Dickinson and several other break bread in these lyric narratives bursting at the seams with quietly sustained power.  Jones is no muscle laden singe punch heavyweight, these poems are all footwork and lightning jabs.

A Genealogy of Silence

1917:  An American boy and a German boy stare
           at one another in a French trench for a full minute
           behind a Colt New Service and a Luger.
           Each marvels at how close a likeness the other
           bears to his own visage, like a mirror image. One shoots.

1925:  She watches the shadows swim under the door
           as her impatient husband paces the hospital corridor.

1936:  A man films the last known Tasmanian tiger
           walking back and forth between the cage walls
           just before it disappears.

1952:  A soldier's hat falls as he bends to avoid seeing
           his superior. Polished boots sound like hoof-clatter
           on cobblestones as he slams the brothel door.

1970:  In a soybean field in middle Georgia, the crowd roars.
           Not far away, a pregnant girl at a roadside peach stand
           says to a Strychnine-panicked boy, "I cannot help you;
           the lines are down," as he stumbles into the darkness.

1976:  A red telephone is ringing in the early light. She cannot
           hear it. She studies the light on the countertop, not wondering
           who waits at the other end of the line, for whom it rings.

1987:  A girl waits in a hotel room purchased on her father's
           credit card for a boy who said, "I ache for you."

1993:  A man holds his first-born by the legs out the window-
           frame of an incomplete second-story addition.

1997:  A young man drives through the night, perhaps in
           Arizona, perhaps nowhere at all, until he comes upon
           a waterless sea of solid glass. Nobody believes him.

2000:  The neighbor boy soaks toads in gasoline to watch
           them move through the dark like shooting stars.

2004:  Christmas eve, the tire of an overturned car spins
           in a ditch where two boys sit staring at a patch
           of morning sun shining through the pines.

2005:  Midnight in the mother's day darkness:
           the telephone rings.

2012:  A young man cuts his own right hand off
           with a chainsaw. After, he cannot explain.

2013:  Forgotten candles in the bathroom resemble
           green moonlight where two lay naked in the dark.

Five       A boy and a girl watch the last Tasmanian tiger
(A.M.):  pace back and forth on a bright screen. No sound.


"A Genealogy of Silence" is a list poem of sorts and you readers keeping score know that list poems frequently hit a Today's book of poetry soft spot.

In a book of poems with such monster title marvels as "To The Liquor Store With Hayden Carruth" and "Emily Dickinson Sewed Her Poems Shut" or how about this dandy "Throughout the Dismal Glade Our Bodies Shall Be Hung, Each on the Wild Thorn of His Wretched Shade."  I can't help but hear the footsteps of some of the Gothic southern Gods like McCullers and O'Connor.

Jones shapes his memory with myth, prays for appropriate weather, dazzles with a steady velocity and tells his tall tales.  Today's book of poetry read Reflections on the Dark Water an extra time or two, poems like these only get better with each new reading.

Fish Tale

My brother died with a truck full of fish

                       and beer bottles crashing together--
                                             in the Mother's Day darkness--
I am endlessly returning

                                             as if to a worn photograph,
a lure drifting along the lake's rim
                                                                   in Vermont,
a place I've never seen, and so

can only imagine some dim shore growing certain
                       in torn threads of afternoon light.

I go back to those improbable stories

he would tell, eyes alight with the consuming
fire of beer and bourbon,

like the one where he is driving through the desert
all night,
just driving through the sand, until finally he stops
at noon--perhaps in Arizona,
                                                                     perhaps nowhere at all--

on a waterless sea of solid glass,
supposedly the wake of some explosives test.

Walking over the burnt sand-lake's surface, breaking apart
                                               frozen waves and currents
beneath his boots,
crumbling like some hopeless metaphor for certainty.

I listen as he wavers--wanting only to fix some narrative
over the near end--
                                                       recounting as his slurring sways,
circling to the moment just before the hooks are set,

before the surface quivers,
the bottles break,
                     and everything is finished.

And everything is finished;
                                              the bottles break
                       before the surface quivers,

circling to the moment just before the hooks are set,
                       recounting as his slurring sways

                                                                            over the near end,

I listen as he wavers, wanting only to fix some narrative.

Crumbling. Like some hopeless metaphor for certainty
beneath his boots,
                      frozen waves and currents.

Walking over the burnt sand-lake's surface, breaking apart--
                        supposedly the wake of some explosives test--

                                                on a waterless sea of solid glass.

Perhaps nowhere at all

                       at noon, perhaps in Arizona,
just driving through the sand, until finally he stops
all night.

Like the one where he is driving through the desert
                                              fire of beer and bourbon.

He would tell, eyes alight with the consuming.

I go back to those improbable stories
                      in torn threads of afternoon light,

can only imagine some dim shore growing certain--
                      a place I've never seen--and so,

in Vermont,
                      a lure drifting along the lake's rim
as if to a worn photograph--
                       I am endlessly returning

in the Mother's day darkness

                      and beer bottles crashing together,

My brother died with a trunk full of fish. 


Today's morning read at the Today's book of poetry offices took place on the front porch with bright sunshine and guest readers.  M. P. Jones got aired out proper.  When I took the staff outside it was to find Mrs. Today's book of poetry on the front porch arguing in French with Dr. Alexandre.  The doctor stuck around along with Mrs. TBOP and they both joined in the fray.

Jim Morrison Believed that the Right Words in the Right
Order Could Kill You

Lying in the dark waters of that tub,
velvet drapes trimming the night
inside the golden facade
of the rue Beautreillis,
listening to the voices
drifting up from the Seine,
with the light already going
out of his dull eyes,
and another cigarette, perched
like the last link
of a short, broken circle
on his swollen belly, burning
like a candle lit at both ends, lies
the beardless shaman, with that deep,
death-rattle cough ringing
in his ear. Who knows
what he mumbled to himself?


Today's book of poetry was lizard king struck with the poetry of M. P. Jones.  Reflections on the Dark Water reads solid from front cover to back.  This is no narcissist looking into his dark reflection but M. P.  Jones clearing up all that brackish water to let the it run clear and clean, pushing his way to the truth.

M. P.  Jones

Madison Jones is a Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Florida—where he works with the TRACE journal and innovation initiative. He is editor-in-chief of Kudzu House Quarterly. Reflections on the Dark Water (Solomon & George) is his second poetry collection. Recent publications include co-editing Writing the Environment in Nineteenth-Century American Literature; an article forthcoming in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment; poetry forthcoming in Birmingham Poetry Journal, ISLE, and The Goose, and recently appearing in Canary, Tampa Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Greensboro Review, and elsewhere; book reviews in ISLE, Kenyon Review Online, The Journal, and elsewhere. Visit his website:

Reflections on the Dark Water concerns itself with memory and myth, how the bridge between the two--how the line where they intersect--is the irrevocable location of history. M.P. Jones crosses that bridge, that line over and again in poems that view the past in order to make sense of the present. This is a book that wants to separate "truth from chaff."
     - Jericho Brown, author of The New Testament



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