By Rodney Jones b. 1950 Rodney Jones
From the first, I was too reluctant, achieving by dribs and drabs,   
Happy to linger in shallows while others jackknifed from cliffs, wrong
To exact perfection from a sad piece or add notes to a proven tune;   
But ever the classicist:
                                     in swimming lessons, slowest to learn;
In fights, tentative, preferring the hammerlock to the jab and hook; cautious
In the earliest romances, choking in the clutch, fumbling the caress; or shy
Among the crew-cut Cupids bristling at the armory’s weekend dances;   
But shifty in every game, keeping it close. Always holding still   
And adjuring others to go slow
                                              until we leapt forward that night out of control
And pinned to the seats of Tyler Wilson’s outlandishly unstock Ford   
While, from the opposite side of the valley, scalding in each curve, came the black din
And brunt of Sonny Walker’s highjacker Chevrolet, everyone screaming   
And bearing down to be first across the bridge at Hurricane Creek.

Many trophies show us frozen: a leg poised for the hurdle, an arm cocked for the unanswerable spike.
What I remember through the windshield’s splintering lens is time, a mailbox
Rushing by, the letters TURRENTINE,
                                                      then darkness rolling inside;
Though memory, at best, retrieves maybe six percent in studio light,   
So even now I think we might have turned:
                                                               smart with his hands,
There is a kind of savior who blusters through the South, good with animals and machines,
Who surely somehow would have found a gap, through an open gate   
Into a marshy cornfield

                                    or up a logging road into a hillside wood.   
At any rate, there is just a little while, shy of any bridge, just as judgment
Balances its two blind alternatives and a third accelerates head-on.   
I’ve made a careful study: things that can only be accomplished in deep space,
In another language, in far history, at an almost incalculable speed. Courage is not included, or much foolishness.
They spin the purest glass, they split the atom, they speak with God.

They make a sort of Teflon hip and attach it with metal screws,   
Only the threads upbone keep stripping
                                                          so they have to operate
Again and again, and what she’s accomplished is more of a gait, really,
Than a walk, so when she moves toward me, across any room,   
I think too much of my own will
                                                implicated in that dragging brace.   
Each step is obviously trained, and the whole earned motion full   
Of muscle, plastic, and bone
                                           is coordinated by nerves even the   
Strictest dance does not require. She has said there is no fault,   
But even in such talk,
                                  grace occurs as an accident someone caused.   
If what I require is a thing too certain, braided from probabilities,
There is another thing
                                  articulated in the scars that saved her face—   
And no right now in that night we were shaken and rolled like dice, no right to
Say this guilt to be alive is love, or the opposite of lucky is wrong.

Rodney Jones, “Dangers” from Transparent Gestures. Copyright © 2003 by Rodney Jones. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Source: Transparent Gestures (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1989)

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Poet Rodney Jones b. 1950

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Youth, Coming of Age, Living

 Rodney  Jones


Rodney Jones was born in 1950 in rural Alabama. He has described his childhood and youth as “very much like being a part of another age. Our community still did not have electricity until I was 5 or 6 years old.” His poetry frequently celebrates the relationships and events of the small, agrarian community he was born into, as well as preserves the kinds of vernacular speech he grew up hearing. Jones has noted of his youth in . . .

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SUBJECT Youth, Coming of Age, Living

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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