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Patricia Spears Jones reads from A Lucent Fire

Patricia Spears Jones came over to my place a few weeks ago to read some poems from her new book, A Lucent Fire, new and selected poems published by White Pine Press. Although it was a noisy early afternoon outside at 9th Street and Avenue C, her poems subdued every unimportant sound, the spirit in her words, a celebration of days, of loves lost and won, both singer and song vibrant and well-wrought, as comfortable and astounding as the chrysanthemums she’d brought. The world, not always beautiful, is always beautiful when you look; and that is one of Patricia’s jobs: she looks. Listen and look too. You’ll find inside this book every world both old and new finally honored, finally beautiful.


I have typed out below three of the poems Patricia reads. You’ll find all the poems and more in A Lucent Fire published by White Pine Press. You can check them out here:


from Mythologizing Always


Dime falls, your voice rises (fevered)
It’s keen, the way the wind whips this
Garbage up and around like a father
Swinging his baby we are holding hands
And yes, giggling no force can stop us now
We are singing all the James Brown songs
We know helpless off-key, but exhilarated
Columbus Avenue breakdown: how the puddles
In the sidewalks radiate splendor/glass
Broken against high-rise buildings beckon
We are hungry the shifting children salsa
And you may be our feast, please linger
You offer me your laughter
I take the sweat from your cheeks and hum.


You slipped into something dangerous
after attending to your intimate conferences
Thirsty friends forever requesting water
Or is it blood they want? Your blood.
Somebody’s screaming. Is it me?
Here on the side street being a sideshow
For passersby. You put on your silver armor.
I have only my quaint devotion.
It is not enough. You say
I can’t eat your food, baby, but I still like your cooking.
Did I trip?Did you? That Mingus
record is still revolving. You smile
serenely. I can hardly breathe.

The Perfect Lipstick

When the life-sized replicas of the Niña,
the Pinta, and the Santa Maria
precariously sailed into New York harbor,
they looked like toy ships.

Just think, Columbus in a toy ship.
Off to discover the perfect route—
the fastest way to China, the Indies,
all that spice.

He never got this far north.
But all the same, the slaughter of whole peoples,
buildings that even God had not thought of in 1492,
and “expulsion,” “discovery,” the “Slave Trade”
all followed.

Out of this horror came new foods
new clothes new shoes
a language as mixed as the blood of the people
and as alienating

But there are times when the connections, no matter how fragile,
hold, like the thick sails of those tall ships
which decorated the harbor July 4 in fog and gentle light.

It is why I appreciate my favorite shade of lipstick:
Sherry Velour.
Sounds like the name of a drag queen from the early seventies.
One of those strapping Black men who had enough of playing macho,
put their feet in five-inch heels and made saints of Dinah Washington,
Rita Hayworth and a very young Nina Simone.

So, on goes this lipstick. Pretty for parties.
Fatal for festivals.
Sherry Velour and her hot discoveries:
light above the fog,
a toy ship.
Black men in sequined dresses and the click of new words
in the new world where the most dangerous of dreams
come true.

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