Three Poems

POETRY by Alena Jones

Freeze Damage in a Texas Orchard

Citrus trees buckle
under the weight of too-cold winters.

Water seeping through their fiber tubes
swells into crystals larger

than the sapwood can take, and each icy edge
slices clean through paper-wall citrus cells.

Leaves droop, their xylem beams severed
and collapsing. Green will soon wither to brittle

brown. Bark, curling like bacon strips,
peels itself from the hostile cambium

and splits a hole in the trunk, a disfigured doorway
for rabbits and hiding journals. Pockets of dead

cells rot into cankers that ooze
a venomous syrup.

The orange that clings unflagging
to the branches is splotched like a dinosaur

egg, and ice has shredded the flesh;
the fruit shrivels until its skin

is a hollow package that will never
fall because it hasn’t fallen yet.

Lemons, small and dense, will explode

if the ice swells too fast.

Maybe, if there was a very small tree,

it too would explode, sending

through the cold-barbed air

shrapnel of ice and wood.



The Archangel’s Abbey

Saint Michael in Peril of the Sea is now just Mont Saint Michel
and significantly less dangerous, I suppose,

though the tides flood in as treacherous
and swift as in perilous 708

anno Domini when the archangel Michael burnt
a hole in the skull of Bishop Aubert

for neglecting his command to carve a church
into that cragged islet; singed Bishop Aubert

chiseled the finishing tips of Michael’s fire-hands
above the abbey’s gate in the autumn of 710.

Medieval pilgrims slipped unsaved
into the shifting quicksand or, if the moon

pulled unexpectedly, tumbled bubbling
under the tides that still sever the sanctuary from its marshy

Norman mainland. But as I said,
no one ever talks of the waters like that

anymore, and the blessed dust of pilgrim bones
blends now into the briny sand-slime.


One long, low wave pouring from the blue haze shore
surges over the asphalt access road

and splashes at the stone feet
of the boulder-island church. On the soggy

low-tide salt meadows below,
I count six cows lost from their herd.

Their delicate legs will snap as they topple into
the tide of the River Couesnon, lowing silenced.

The wave will then reverse, absorbing itself,
and the ground will contract like a wrung sponge.

The cow carcasses, salt-logged and sprawled
in the sun, will crinkle and mummify

until the tides fold in again and the flesh
swells with moisture, and rot begins.

Retreat, now; salt settles into hide, and particles
of pilgrim bones swirl in the current back to shore.



Daylight in a Bulla Regian House

The air is the same weight
inside the house as out
in the courtyard. Desert heat is light,
not density, not sodden molecules that will stifle
motion even after dark.
These walls have remained cool

since Punic Carthage, since
the bony olive tree, a claw
petrified mid-snatch, rooted itself in the ancient
courtyard: the white Tunisian sun
unable to cling to the slick limestone.

I shiver and twist
myself around the center column.
The marble dissolves the flame
on my skin immediately and sunlight slides
around the atrium like water
down a hill, searching
for something to receive it.


Alena Jones (MAPH’15) lives in Chicago.

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