Marie C. Jones

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completed a Ph.D. in Creative Writing at the University of North Texas in 1999. Oil Hill Press (Wichita, KS) published her chapbook, Love Song, with Mass Extinction, in 2003 and reprinted it in 2005. Her poems have appeared in  Denver Quarterly, Atlanta Review, Prairie Schooner, Antioch Review, Portland Review, and many other journals. In March 2006, she was also a finalist in the Washington Square Review Poetry Contest.

On Writing
I inhabit a cloudy sky seething like cold metal and tasting of your eyes.
I inhabit the first snow of the year, sitting on the roof like crushed aragonite crystals. Under the roof, the bodies of lovers, entangled, cool off. Those bodies—untouchable. Burned shells. Bleached.
You unfold and bloom into a lovely October forest with its temperate gold and rust, its unburned sienna, russet, mushroom groves, fallen leaves, sizzling light, a garden, a place to get lost, lost, lost, and I never want to find my way.
Though wanting you, I will keep burning oil for the Unknown God—one can never be too careful.
The restless earth heaves, shudders, sighs, rolls its oceans from side to side, back and forth, back and forth. A small wave crashes.
Long ago, I vanished into the deep. Now I live there. The ocean is stormy and cold and has more monsters than anyone needs. You dwell among them. You’re hermaphrodite; you hide inside coronas of hooked tentacles. Your skin is smooth and pale, cool to the touch, slightly slimy. There is a good chance I’m in love with you.
Each day, I pray they’ll never haul you up onto a deck, bloated and shark-mangled, low atmospheric pressure rupturing your internal organs one after the other. You’re not a blue-blooded horseshoe crab. They couldn’t milk and release you. They would have to dissect you.
The Unknown God has no name, face, rituals, or Book of the Dead. In the temple, his niche is obscure, his altar is bare, except for the oil lamp that never goes out. An emptiness in the wall, a clay lamp burning olive oil and sizzling, once in a while, in the protracted silence.
No one ever comes here.
No one ever comes to this Carboniferous sea. I bid my time watching primitive sharks keep busy. Helicoprion with a mouth like a spiky licorice roll. Balantsea—a lumpy gelatinous bag that bites nonetheless. And sometimes ischyodus, like a man walking to the light of his own lantern. Slow swimmers end up as dinner for fifteen-foot armored fish hacking the dirty light. After a while, anything gets boring.
Even your bed becomes inhabitable with a little imagination. I try to be considerate, let you sleep. Sometimes, I can almost see what we might be to each other—more than drums, needles to mainline the God. Longtime friends, youngish. People who have seen better days together. And worse ones. Human.
Every night, your hair drips on the pillow after you washed it.
Sometimes, they hung a veil in front of the Unknown God. The faithful knew there was nothing there, but they could no longer see it. Imagined, emptiness became substantial, hefty.

Meet the Parents
When you go up in smoke in the glad tropical sky, I wonder if we’ll ever see you again. The only way I’m going back to Texas is feet first—and not even then, if I can help it. Allan bails you out once more, cutting your ashes loose deep in the jungle. Go to my memorial service. That will be a hoot. Only, you need to eat before you get there. They’ll have ambrosia salad and soggy Mrs. Baird sandwiches. B.Y.O.B., too, unless you like tepid Kool-Aid. We stand there, Neal in his best shirt and the dark grey tie with garnet pin-stripes I bought yesterday—the only one left in the store. I feel stupid, a sniffling monument, black to the pearls, shaking hands with your dry-eyed mother in her sensible beige pant-suit. She pats us on the back, like a helpful great-aunt comforting the bereaved parents. Your father disappeared right after the service, out of illness or boredom, but your sister stands by the refreshment table, tall and too thin, like a child on an interstate. Half of the English Department mills around; Bob is wearing shoes, for once, and Tahira her best nose ring. Your two families hold a staring contest across the appetizers. Come on, that’s funny! Don’t tell me it’s not, that would be such BS. Did the minister hint that I might already be roasting in hell? He sure did, and I prepared to stop Neal from assaulting the poor man, who looked nonplussed and a bit like a sad, moth-eaten vulture. What? You guys didn’t even start a good brawl? You wouldn’t know a good time if it punched you on the snout! What are you going to do without me?

Winter Drought in Texas: Two Small Towns Burn to the Ground
If I lie back quietly, memory takes off like a horse carrying its drunk rider home despite his best effort. The old hospital where I was born by emergency C-section is now closed, but I still lie in the stifling bare room, orange with newborn’s hepatitis, and the double rumble of trucks and river still rocks my first sleep. I will hear that faraway thunder all my life: buying meat and bread with my parents in the small shops that would all turn into art libraries after the supermarkets sprouted on the outskirts of town; riding the bus on fieldtrips to the swimming pool and wishing mightily that we could all fall into the river, its tumultuous peace; and later at the beginning of three-hour trips back to college in Orléans, a city so large and scary I would have fled right back home, had I not been able to go walk, there also, down the banks of the River Loire, by far the longest in France, according to my mother’s tattered atlas—but even that long river disappears into the Atlantic half a world from the arid coasts of Texas. Never mind: Australian Aborigines believe that what we enjoyed once can never be taken from us, even after being taken from us, so I sink into an older dream still, knowing that the earth is round despite its four corners, and that the only way home is to turn my back on it and start walking.