Ouija

by Lois P. Jones
Pen Shells
Second Place, April 2010
Judged by Fiona Sampson


Green sunflowers trembled in the highlands of dusk and the whole cemetery
began to complain with cardboard mouths and dry rags.”
–Federico Garcia Lorca

You asked for an R, for the ripening of olives
in your garden, the red-tailed hawk

angling over the road, the path
that took you down and away

from the empty room of the body.
The R of reasons, of the ringing that breaks

in a yellow bell tower – the only sound
after the round of shots that shattered

an afternoon. And the T can only be more time,
time to be the clock or the weather vane,

the twilight through your windows
on the page, your pen once again plow

and the places you took me
where I abandoned faith.

A is alone, how you never wanted it,
preferring the company of bishop’s

weed and drowsy horses—the warm trace
of the lily and a flame

for the night with its black mouth
that sings your saeta.

G is the ghost bird that hovered
at Fuente Grande that you did not wish

to come, for the grave some say you dug
with your own hands,

empty as a mouth full of snow,
as a sky that held no moon that night

only its pure shape to stow
all the names of the dead.


The apparent randomness of the four letters (R, T, A and G) this poem’s visitant picks on the Ouija board makes this seem like a poem “which really happened”; but this doesn’t, for once, weaken a poem whose confident trajectory is concerned with cleverly and evocatively re-telling the story of Lorca’s murder – but telling it not only “slant” but in Lorca-esque terms. A difficult feat, and especially hard to avoid this sounding mannered, but you manage beautifully. Some killer phrases – “the empty room of the body” – though I might have replaced the epigraph with a “for” or “i.m.” and would have fiddled with the grammar of “A is alone, how you never wanted it” – maybe “that”? – which I think you worry too much about matching to “green, how much you wanted it”. Especially given that the famous opening of that Lorca poem is a translation, in English versions! --Fiona Sampson

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