“Jonah and Mr. Bones” received the 2013 William Matthews Poetry Prize and appeared in the Fall, 2013 issue of Asheville Poetry Review
JONAH AND MR. BONES
“And the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he
fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is
better for me to die than to live.”
— Jonah 4:8
“They were all the same size, maybe they were
brothers, it seems, and is, clear to me we are brothers.”
— John Berryman
The noose of Nineveh. Slip your head in or don’t.
When your number’s up, it’s up. Or down, depending.
Beneath his skin God inserted a message then panic
set in. He ain’t gots no message. Escape. From Washington
Avenue Bridge his casually waved farewell. Whether you’re
thrown over the side or decide to jump the result is the same.
The men had faith that Jonah’s death would calm the storm.
The big fish swallowed him down to its oily black belly.
What slick broad ribs, what safekeeping! With no place
to hide he rubbed his prayers like sticks together then marveled
at his heart’s charred bone. Does going to the Other Side
change anything? It too late to report back. After three days
what saved Jonah spewed him out, dizzy and raggy-legged,
his salty exit. And there’s Mr. Bones watching Jonah stumble
onto the shore of an unasked-for second chance. Mr. Bones
knows bitterness & the loop-the-loop of ending. Side by side
the madmen kneel on the sand to pray. Whether for life or death
is anybody’s guess. The cure for brokenness so rarely takes.
“Church Service: Infant Dedication” was a finalist for the New Millennium Writings Poetry Award, and was published in NMW in Summer, 2014.
CHURCH SERVICE: INFANT DEDICATION
Inside, the unclothed
breaths. Outside, marks
in air of a new body,
the stranger and his tepid
purse. You, too, are
a stranger, a solitary
knot in the rope
the fattened pastor
hid within his
mysterious fist. Massive
hands of the clock
semaphore the steeple.
You’ll try throughout
your life to understand
time’s judgey language,
its babble, so much
like yours at the start.
But as you mature
the words morph,
expand and contract,
till you take the fall
into the voiceless
slot. Watch closely.
The dedicating hand
is swifter than
the eye… Out of
your blood, only
hours old, mothered
with your children’s
children (they’ll leave
you behind.) Anointed
with oil, wrapped
in prayers then lifted up,
lifted up. Little infant?
Open your mouth.
table, His deathy spread.
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