Philip K. Jason



If you sit so that shadows
flicker across the words
you are reading, the words
will take on shadows, too,
and each phrase, each vaulting
passage, will leap from its long
dark soul and tear into the world
of time and light.

When the sun is overhead,
the words go flat
and your mind's ear shuts down
with no echo.

......................The blanched page
spills over the fragile characters
still trying to go on.

At night, in a darkened room,
the letters scatter and recombine
on a black field. Each shadows
the other in a scrimmage of twins.

The words that are cast from us
as we move between the sun
and our patches of space
are eclipsing shadows.

On a page, in a book,
they resurrect the world.


Mansoora Hassan
Spiritual Journey
Series #1, 1999
Mixed Media on paper 30in. x 22in.

see more of Mansoora Hassan's work





We are rooted here in the profound momentum
of compound interest, and the precise unfolding
of its dark cousin, amortization.
These are phenomenon that shape our lives,
not only our exchanges,
with something not too far from beauty,
the beauty of dogwoods counting out blossoms
that divide in mathematical precision
into pink and white petals
until a strong wind runs them aground,
mixing them with progressions of whirling seedpods
from the red maple, and the green.
These numbers, then, are not just vanishing debts and spiraling totals,
but the interest compounding on sun and water,
the cycles of diminishment and growth.
In each of us, too, there are intimate mortgages,
ledgers and tables of root, branch, and flower,
annuities of love and generous impulse,
generations of quantity, color, and shaping will.
Collected or not, I have interest in you and you,
as you have in me: amor, amort, amount.



In his youth,
in another land of palms,
he sometimes flew medivac missions,
sometimes set down troops
into a zone cleared for landing
by machete or explosives,
sometimes blew thatched roofs
into a million flecks of straw.
Now, in the citrus groves,
the strawberry fields
and tomato patches
he hires out
to guard the crops,
hovering over a cold LZ
making it hotter
or at least safer
as the waves of bladed air
caress the leaves and buds,
fondle the unripe fruit,
to keep the frost from forming.



Calumny will be closed today,
as will Arrogance and Sloth
(except for New Sloth Beach
which is opening two hours late).
Penury is closed.
The District of Ambivalence is open
with a liberal leave policy:
check with your supervisor.
North Affectation is closed,
but the toll booths will be open.
Sodomy is open
but will be closed after noon.
We still have no word in
from Modesty.

Freedom is open but hazardous:
an emergency plan is in effect.
Beauty and Truth are closed,
but plan to open tomorrow.
Love will remain open
but transportation cannot be provided.

Last night, before the first flakes,
Cowardice announced it would close.
Pride, as usual, will not be closed:
everyone is expected in on time.
Gluttony and Lechery are closed
except for essential personnel.

We will be watching things along;
our reporters and camera crews are standing by
and more calls keep coming in.
Mendacity, reported earlier as open,
is really closed.
We will run through the latest list of closings
after the news.



Let the rug be someone
you trust and depend on,
let the couch
be a loss of memory,
and that tangled lightcord
beneath the desk
a map of the night.

The desk itself
is your doctor,
bankteller, broker.

Why do you look
at that picture,
the one you so dislike?

Let the two lamps
be hither and yon,
yes and no,
binary breathing.

Let the round table
be a pool of regrets,
the chair in the corner
your zone of exile.

Why do you come back?

The doors are lovers,
evangelists, beggars,
chances, detours, tombs.

Why do you come back?

Who has removed
the ashtrays, old papers,
the wrappers and husks
of casual foodstuffs?

Why do you look
at that picture?

Let the rag of cobweb
be stirred by absence.

Let the curtain, parted,
be me.

Let the window, open,
also be me.


Philip K. Jason has taught literature and creative writing at the United States Naval Academy since 1973. He served for twenty years as an executive editor of Poet Lore and was also for many years a member of The Writers' Center board of directors. Among his sixteen books are three collections of poetry, the most recent being The Separation, published in 1995. He is co-author of the Creative Writer's Handbook, now in its third edition, and the author or editor of several books on Anais Nin and on the literature of war.

Published in Volume 2, Number 2, Spring 2001.