Martin Jones: Poems


Martin Jones

Give me a city anytime!
A big, cacophonous soaring splash
of whizzing motion and
thundering symphony of loud and
lusting energy –
let me have a fierce sun rising
on a bold and splendid shovel load
of earth whatever its name may be –
New York or Rome,
Babylon or another.

Let me loose to stride the ways
of an arrogant metropolis,
by the sprawling sweep of
café-lined boulevards and
turquoise swathes of humming
harbour, drumming gray factory
and through flapping laundry-strung
and antique alleys.
Give me the sounds of the human
beast and its muffled roar
and the great percussion of traffic
and construction and
the simmering smell of curries
and hot peppered stews
by doors of greasy
backstreet eateries.

God, grant us this wild electric
hurly-burly that we love.

Give us the movie marquees
and theatre posters as we pass,
the ancient impregnable churches
and the cloud-gazing towers,
grant us the transcendent hours
lost to galleries and to concert halls,
and show us again those bistros
that we adored, where with friends
we drank and laughed away
grand cargo loads of time.

Lord, give us a city anytime,
and let us see it from beginning
to the end and every
human patch of earth
and all the stories it can recall,
the family passion and the fearsome drama,
the small victories ripped from loss.
Grant us energy and the years.
A perpetuity of lifetimes will not suffice
to comprehend such intricate kaleidoscopes
as these.
Give us again those cities that we love.



Fiddler in the Rain

Martin Jones

In the chill drizzle of a November night
by the Boulevard Saint Germain,
a man sits quietly on a city bench
as traffic flashes by before his eyes
and revelling crowds, umbrellas held aloft,
rush hurriedly past.

All is awash in the neon light
of a jewelry shop and brightly lit café,
reflecting off the slick pavement and
bathing the worn woolen cap
that sits atop the old fellow’s skull.
A violin case rests upon his lap
and his kit is beside him on the sidewalk,
an oversized department store bag
which might contain, at the very least,
a clean pair of socks,
a fresh shirt
perhaps some cigarettes.

Why he persists on sitting there,
is something to conjecture,
for the rain is beating ever more fiercely
on his soiled brown jacket,
on his violin case and belongings
and one would think
the old man might prefer
to take refuge with his fellow homeless
who are huddled under blankets
in the shelter of dry doorways.

I know I should not stare at him
but am sure he does not see me,
perhaps sees nothing much at all
for his eyes are fixed on a point in space,
or more likely a point in time,
and his grizzled, cross-hatched face
has settled into bitter but stunned reflection,
like a man fallen victim
to a shocking crime …

I wonder if some years from now
I will be telling someone, somewhere,
of this night,
of the old fiddler
who sat aloof in the cold Paris rain —
as still as an image in a painting
at the Musée d’Orsay —
and never looked about nor flinched,
said nothing —
perhaps had nothing left to say
or worse, no longer possessed the words
to say it.

Let Go of Summer

Let go the trill of morning dove on waking,
the jaunt at dawn above the lake
and sun that splashes, darts among the trees.

Let go the lazy hiss of eggs and bacon on the grill,
the early dip that chills one’s soul to life,
the moments for reflection, let go of these.

Let go the slow, turning times on water,
drifting with a current, dreaming with a friend,
let go the cool diving lakes of afternoon,

the tennis courts, the summer partners who
live no longer than a season’s lease, then disappear,
let go of seaside souvenirs in sunny rooms.

Let go of evening’s laughter on the dock,
and brown-eyed girls who dance with you
in lantern-lit pavilions under summer moons.

These almost-auburn days of August grow oddly brief,
the evening’s chill sets early on the folding mist,
and though winter’s sleep may have yet to call,

it one day will, and not far off, so let summer gently
slip like starlight into fall.

Things to Learn Before You Vanish

One day, it happens and you vanish,
maybe as you ponder words in Spanish,
strange to think, or worse, outlandish.

Perhaps a love affair grows sadly sour,
perhaps the fellow never brings you flowers
perhaps it’s best to vanish for an hour.

Or consider – you find a way to trash all hope,
but not calamitous enough for rope,
vanish with forged papers and you’ll cope.

Should we practice absence now, or soon?
Maybe learn to vanish in a crowded room
or for longer, like the far face of the moon.

One does not wish to banish all belief,
or consider losing wives and kids a big relief,
so each day steal a quiet hour like a thief

to vanish into daydreams and to thought,
not of things that can be priced or bought

but of noble passions, loves that harrow hell,
then, from all of this, learn to vanish well.


The road winds north from Namoya through jungle
and like a highway, is numbered
though barely wide enough to contain twin ruts for truck wheels.
We are a month into the dry season
yet the way is blocked in many places
by deep pools of mud and toppled branches
and everywhere one looks is jungle:
shimmering, green-roiled and pregnant, impenetrable.

Our two Landcruisers have been left with the drivers
and we will walk the last hour of our journey.
Once underway, you wish never to cease walking
for the morning is unusually soft and translucent,
cool, and the air intoxicates.

We pass three villages sheltered in forest clearings near the road,
each a smattering of tiny homes of mud and wattle.
These are shy folk who live so far from anywhere,
they look away at first, then smile, grow warm and welcoming;
the children approach us slowly and giggle.

Further on, the roadway dips toward a valley
shaded in forest canopy and silence.
It is then we see them, three in the lead,
tall, willowy, furious men moving quickly toward us on foot,
and then more, a dozen appearing around a bend,
followed by a gaggle of long-horned, skinny, rib-jutting cattle
who trot hurriedly behind.