Self-Portrait as Silent Ritual

by Madison Jones IV


When the feeling returns, it is time to circle the house
with senescent light caving out the kitchen window against
sharpening noon. Retrieve the blank parchment and toss
the top sheet as an offering to the air. As it flutters
toward the rug, think of synonyms for your regrets, blankness
glistening like a mantra, everything goes. Look out at the band
of jaybirds fighting over the cat food. Take out the cigar box
your father gave you for your tenth birthday where you keep
four quarters and a bag of salt. Place a pinch beneath your tongue
until it glows like silver and you unroll the negatives
which enshroud your inkwell, slowly from their dark axis.
Savor each frame light caresses. Take the quill
from your mother’s  coffee cup. Run your finger across
vines that move along the rim. Everything goes. It is enough.



Only in the empty room can you undress
                                    the darkness with your eyes.

Riding through neighborhoods at dusk,
I am confronted by these late shadows:

this universe fashioned from curb to stucco,
                                    squares of grass blades, dying bradford pear,

the sweetgum lobbing its spherical spears

hiding their silence behind a covert of crisp leaf-piles,
                                                                        a drowsy Lotus Tree,

bent like the Buddha and as still.
                                    Now you must burn your books
outside in the tin trash can, leaving
                                    the shelves barren with dust.

Forget the photographs in the hall, but also focus inattention

on what may come, eat the fruit of unmindfulness to know
                                    what matters most,
                                                                        what matters only

is the dirt beneath your fingernails.



All those times I felt  I could know it, that it could be known,
I had misunderstood best. Not until dog days crouch
at Orion’s feet, laying blame and scorching  dry loam,
do I grow mad from sour wine. These narrow nights, when
for a moment, I see how time spreads itself like moss
over the rock’s throat. In the enormous shade
of that magnolia we climbed, I remember— a word
which comes from memento—what is only a harbinger
carried in the mote of morning sunlight, thrumming
these ancient floorboards, threatening to reclaim
even them with caresses. Fading star, not unfolding
like dark blossoms out the window toward its symmetries,
instead you splinter in all directions at once. Is it enough
when every move leans toward this inevitable silence.


Madison Jones IV recently received a master’s in literature from Auburn University. He is also founder and editor-in-chief of Kudzu House Quarterly, a journal of Southern literature and environment. His poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Painted Bride Quarterly, Harpur Palate, Portland Review, Tampa Review, Cumberland River Review, Canary Magazine, and Town Creek Poetry, among divers others; reviews appear in Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, Valparaiso Poetry Review and elsewhere; and he is also the author of a poetry collection, Live at Lethe (Sweatshoppe Publications, 2013). He teaches first-year English and creative writing at Point University in West Point, GA. Visit his author’s page:

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