Issue 3

Rodney Jones
Four Fables Set in The Shawnee Hills


Black trumpets, whale-colored
pamphlets, or shingles, or ears,
bookmarks of the netherworld,
breakfast food of the box turtle.

For a long time, I could not find
them, hovering just above them
the way a boy will hang all night
over the enigmas of geometry.

And then I saw them risen
in clusters on the mossy rocks,
firm and articulate, as when first
translated from the original rain.

Bat wing, toad mask, vole shield:
they turn darkly in the alchemy
of the skillet—in the mouth,
they transmit a tenuous signal,

a hint of perfume, but musical—
songs with morals, light things
broadcast before the planetary
news on the underground station.


Coco rings four times and answers herself,
“We’re not home right now.
Please leave a message after the beep.”
And beeps. Then whistles a little while—
like Nestus Gurley—a note or two
that with a note or two would be
a tune. And also sharps the beeps
of a garbage truck backing up,
says, “C’mon,” asks, “How are you?”
and answers, “I’m fine. What?”—
Gray suit, red tailfeathers, call girl—
Whatever you imagined hearing,
listen again—if you mean to swing,
listen less deeply. Let go of meaning.


My boat comes on fast around the bluffs
so by the time I see her fishing
and cut the engine, it is already too late
to apologize for the 21st Century.

Clearly I have offended the ancients and am shamed,
but as she packs her body under her wings
and lifts off, grark, she says blithely,
so that I take taunt, and flash, and yell aiiee.

And turn quickly. And, finding no witness,
audition a number of moot epistemological
tropes and unemployed kennings
like heron person and great blue human.

But as the pulley of the invisible starts
hauling her up and across the lake, grark
she calls again, and again, I yell back aiiee
and think badly of her as she alights

in the crown of a dead sycamore
and fluffs herself up with regal
emphasis, so I will understand
the human position in the higher order.


Fishers of shadows along fence lines,
skulkers of gullies and creek banks,
unstoppable immigrants, they pass quickly
on the old path that leads through the city
but never directly in front of you,
so you do not truly see them
until you find one dead on the interstate,
so large the body, so broad
the tail, you cannot believe it,
and then you are walking out of the sedge
into the thicket of that fur one night
when this unearthly shouting comes
up from the ridge by the lake,
yips, some say, or howls, but no—
you have to take it somewhere else.
Rimbaud in the barn in Charleville,
the opium screaming Une Saison en Enfer.
Coltrane playing outside. The place
where she changed. Giant steps. The truth
you hear sometimes and know false
and keep secret because it might be true.