santurce, green bay, crete

February 2024



we wandered over rivulet  stone
smashed sun & sage

holding old epiphanies

sky purse  cloud’s bellow

-ed at edges   where mouth
& sunset   make

or lapse abeyance   

we drifted along side streets  

curled boulders  smooth  
to lay us down      

as pool


she’d often say   minotaur   wo
-ven serpent 

blessed flower & gown    
long tresses 

horned vase & bullish hands

hard  on evidence 
of desires

in sequences  un

met   you walked thin strand  

Ananse   your mother de camped

sleeping   wrapped as an oasis
of ground

suspended stories   as odysseys  

as eyes  stuck to you
seagirt & madness

governed   but for thread threat’s
census so inner  

I could paint when I saw you there  

lustrous in dis  avowal   aban
-doned to the sacrifice

of thirst    epithet stinging cigarette
& beer foam 

the daughter of the daughter of   
I see your enum

-erations   nurse the son  
that was not the son

not freeborn   but bound    to schism

& rank   current figurines
in windswept grove

raked to mounds that hid
the function of

artifice    lost sky    lost web    lost
mirror    lost path

to the sea of our likenesses   
not trail but derive

-d sacred tide   charred  & brittle  

copy of a copy of   

my father anamorphous   knee   fore
-arm   shattered breast

-plate   I can only see polis as body   

cruel potency   formed reddening wheel
-ed  occulted shield

of sun  


we danced  antic  beheaded ghosts  
his mother swaddled him

in dis may     plinth    Phoenician
vowels    he was

in his gradations   superceded in
-scribed by thorns  co

-agulant    bear not blood 

nor lament    but inscription’s
wild elegy  

soothsayer in his ancestral ward  

out of time  out of place  out of body

you give to me     poultice

hideblade    boneash   wreckage

-mask of  bellicose air


of monstrous birth    a monster
given   which half savage?   which thrown as tribute?   

the remainder   as victories  of penalties in   
upper rose  of wing & veil  

that ours   illicit would   but by deceit’s
wonderment   grow   

that we were melting in rooms    attuned

to weather     a shock of   baby born
in crossroads & roar  of empire   abrasive stone 

languid liquid light   out of hardship
swallowed   the star of us    in us  tapering  

our own exilic anecdote   taboo like orb

or atlas  we echo within   a topos  
of emanations  

you at the front door  turning    I too
walked the walk  

refused the quandary of   your vehicle   

as she had as you had as I in the black-sail
of sacrifice did

letting you know  I’d died   clothes
pinned to morning light    gown of destiny’s skin   

skein of the mother   you were
& didn’t have  of the wife

who was daughter of a daughter’s
epic refusal   borne to be of gift   then barren

all the ties of strings  of laces   iron-wrought

& the father  in the guise of a bull    bellowing 

clutched at    wielded    pierced


it was he who must betray her 
her weeping in thread  

a loanword   a lone pre figuration
the forests burned

ontological    islands that couldn’t
escape themselves  

adjunct to   a cup of poison   the plantation
& its deeds   

& there   a land inside our various mis
-becomings    inundated    amp-

utated in ways that seem
un  befitting   con toured 

under neath within the sheath   
of fragment    shorn

serenity  spiked teeth     & inlaid maze

its body our body’s     aporia


thin decades   the palace pre deceased

I am the fourth ladder    my daughter says
my ambulant     climactic sojourn thru

rugged serrated night   thru a congeries

of backlit wombs   emitting forever phantoms
we still see    the “I” of it   seasick

& sea redundant    “tell me what you think

you know”  is  land   is  up rooted  air   is
hymn   is  vibration     riffed  “we”   oceans

of where we were  diaspora  diadem   points

of light awaiting us    we who played
the keys to doors to shattered glass   to stone

that un absolves us   its spirit    carmine &

branch   painted below    eager window  
& willow seed    of basalt   of hazards

formed  of embroidered edge alluvial  our crust

returning   the water’s ripple   & weaves 
outlets of time    griot in the backseat 

singing us   no way  long way    home

Keith Jones is the author of the poetry books and chapbooks Surface to Air, Residuals of Basquiat (Pressed Wafer, 2012), Fugue Meadow (Ricochet Editions, 2015), the lucid upward ladder (Verse, 2016), blue lake of tensile fire (Projective Industries, 2017), shorn ellipses (Morning House, 2017), and Echo’s Errand (Black Ocean, 2022). A scholar of African diasporic and multiethnic literatures, decolonial theory, critical pedagogy, and poetry and poetics, he teaches in the Africana Studies Department at the University of Massachusetts Boston. His scholarly essays have appeared or are forthcoming in MELUS, African American Review, and the Journal of Social Issues. He is also the Poet-in-Residence at the New England Conservatory of Music. His manuscript Las Palmas, from which the above sequence is drawn, won the 2023 Omnidawn Poetry Chapbook Prize and is forthcoming from Omnidawn Press.