Stephanie Jones

Still Life

If I looked too long or you stood too long at the edge
the moment would rub against us and be known.

Deep freeze holds us captive.
Between us we use up all your razorblades.
Days dulled. Black hairs collect
on the countertop
fleck around the sink. Stubble
on a porcelain face.
We leave them to their portraiture.

Evenings and daylight hours settle like soot.
Balmy morning reaches us
at last. Almost warms us. We kiss
drink fresh coffee
leave with our coats

return to the lake.
You walk to the edge where wild geese
congregate. Still and somber.
Winter’s only apostles
kneeling in meditation on melting ice.
Mists bloom and roll along
the surface.
Wandering clouds
searching for sky.

Gusts of blackbirds blow up
from trees. Naked branches
reaching after them.
Aerial performance in reverse.

Ungloved I snap a photograph
miss the act

You stand at the edge
watching the geese be still.


Marigold in Hours before the River

I don’t rise to greet the morning
Day and night, remain risen.
Once washed in rain
sun dried by charioted wingbeats, my tunic
welds to breast and hip. Gilded armor
fitted for its lost battle.

Over my shadow
my only moving part
no dominion. Terminal consciousness
without breath to hold for those

who pass on either side. Enter
to leave through opened doors and drawn
curtains. Meet their motioned futures:
Bare feet that press into moss. Hairs that draw
skin into prickles. Fingers that sting
blue-grey with frost. Voices that praise
abundant sun, gentle rain. Eyes that

penetrate another’s gaze.
The perverse ones behold me.
Monumented, sun dialing through the day
beside a window whose light I cannot see
I would shatter myself

to tarnish. Momentarily to alter. To blink. To grey
and wrinkle. Face eternally fixed in misexpression.
Well-wrought sedation.
Neck calves stomach held stiff
and smooth with celestial frostbite. Body
consumed by metallic ice without
want for shivering. Not sense
but memory. Almost only memory! Time and memory
memory memory. Like mercury it separates

Purple your knees in some piteous display.
Your palms knuckles fingertips
unbloodied fleshed and ballistic. Those pass
who believe your glossy suffering:
welling catching sunlight
roll like drops of fire that scorch your cheeks
when you pause in windows. Silk robes still
(somehow!) cascading down your warm
pulsing spine. Snaking behind
your slippers as you pace and weep.

When you’re locked inside yourself
things you might have guessed
you come to know.

Your mineraled beauty named for fate.
Entombed by consciousness without breath.


Stephanie Jones writes features for DownBeat, JazzTimes and NPR Music. Her micro fiction appears in 50-Word Stories, and she received her first poetry commission from Blue Note Records for pianist Gerald Clayton’s 2022 release Bells on Sand. She currently teaches at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. She lives in New York and dreams of LA.