Tuesday, November 12, 2019

First Pages

First Pages~ L'assemblage by Michael Douglas Jones  ©2019






   One hand span above the hickory on the ridge, behind the fog façade of predawn dark, November’s waning moon is a soft chalk smudge on the washed blackboard sky, and I, on the rain wet road, watch and learn; teacher’s pet.



invented primer page ~ by Michael Douglas Jones  ©2019




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Monday, November 11, 2019

Beyond the Hawthorn Walls

Hawthorn ~ L'assemblage by Michael Douglas Jones  ©2019


   Hawthorn

   Winter will be coming on, the last red summer sun rises, one hand high above the tree line, and in the valley, whitetails are leaving for cooler grazing ground. I am where I was yesterday, my brim pulled low over my eyes, waking, as sun slivers find me, slicing me, scorching me deep in my own hardwood prison.

   For hours, days, weeks beyond measure, I struggle, crawling out through the claws of the hawthorn thicket, my blood still on its briar, its seeds still on my shoes, until, just outside its grasp, I rest on the ridge of tall grass and chicory for a time, beneath the daystars of Queen Anne’s lace, where hope hangs overhead, and I can breathe it in long enough to forget. 

   By twilight, the deepest cuts have dried, the blood has blackened; I am weak, seeking sustenance, and eating fallen berries, before fading back into the fitful sleep of guilt and despair. 


   As dawn wakes me, the hawthorn seeds have grown around me and I am once again in the thick of it. Day upon day, I crawl homeward, and night after night, the thicket grows, with me at its middle.



Beyond the Walls ~ L'assemblage by Michael Douglas Jones  ©2019



Beyond The Walls

    Beyond the briar walls, a staccato of cicada fades in and fades away. Blackbird and wren build nests above me; they welcome the thorn, the berry and branch, a fortress from feral cats. Field mice skitter in and around the quickthorn, while, slowly, the cats, patient predators, circle the perimeter.

   Bindweed wraps looptight around the branches and draws bumblebees to its bloom brights by morning, and whitetails to its leaves in evening. This unlikely troop follows up the ridge, as each day I grow another vaulted hell, another solitary cell of cyanide seed and cockspur. The lot of us, a hedgerow of outsiders advancing, almost imperceptibly, in a parade of black hearts and blue blacked wings with the devil’s coach horse at the front, and sow bugs and buzzards as the rear guard cleaning the bones of the no man left behind.


    Pensée follows a furlong behind this rain parade; my last muse, scarred and bruised, patiently collecting the remnants of my life in her broken bone bag. She says it so simple, “Wipe your shoes,” and I will, but not well; the seeds still take root. She cannot fathom that I wear my father’s hand me down genes, and carry seeds of hawthorn and Osage orange in my pocket to grow my own thickets of thorn, when I need to bleed, when I need to feel his strap on my back.


The Long LIne ~ L'assemblage by Michael Douglas Jones  ©2019


The Long Line

   It was not always this way. We once walked the long line, three hundred years of follow thy father, until that path was paved over, the plank road replaced with asphalt and abstracts. A family of seeders in a world of cash crops and cotton gins, blacksmiths in a time of motorcars and aeroplanes, my father and I were not like the crows that adapted; we strayed from the rattle and chatter of the city. Pensée says it was our weakness, like bread and beer, but it was our hearts, broken by the babble of brimstone, and left searching for a home to sit in peace with the silent sermon of nature.

   There was no home, once my father took to his potion, moonshine mixed with peaches, stoppered in bottles, sealed with paraffin, and in time, I took to it too. I hated him for it, and he hated himself and everyone else. He left to fight the world at their center, in the city, and I went deeper into the woods of my own world, where even love would not find me. We both arrived at the same broken center, my father poisoned by toluene gin and I, drawing my own black and blueprint, designed this prison of thorn.


   But winter will be coming on, the weather will cool, the growth will slow in the shorter days of autumn; let it take lifetimes, I will make my way home to Pensée and the silent sermon.


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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Magdaléna Sketches

Magdaléna Sketches ~ L'assemblage by Michael Douglas Jones  ©2019





    In the war before this war, laid low by buck and ball, I was dying, full of fever, caught up in the thornthick of a black locust hedgerow, and hopeless. Magdaléna cut my clothes from the tangle, and wagoned me back to the cottage of the shroud seamstress, to tend my wounds. That is what she tells me; she saved me, I am hers. She is the seamstress; I am her soldier, and she decides my final fight.

   Above the treeline on the west ridge, the righteous gather stones to atone for original sin; bringing that burden down into the valley, stacking cairn rings around the scaffold of alder and ash lashed tight above the deep well outside the cottage of the shroud seamstress. Sewn inside each shroud, sinner stones sink hope in the lake of our losses.

   The cottage of Magdaléna is unlike those on every street and lane; the dark door set back in shadow from the cobblestone, back from the trade signs hung above the doors of merchants and craftsmen, the dark door that opens to the curious, and the cautious, the prosperous, and the poor of pocket. Her sketches stack, tacked, just inside that door; self portraits of the temptress that she is.

As eyes adjust to the windowless room, the candlelit corners contain amber bottles with soot shaded corks, and filled with stout, and laudanum, absinthe, and arsenic, amid crumbling ancient pages of tantric embrace, mysterious and useful arts, india ink symbols of curses and cures in chain locked volumes of once ready recipes, no longer necessary; the measures are in her soul, if she has one; she will not say. My guess is that when necessary, she steals one, coaxes one.

At dayend, Magdaléna says I have earned my ale, and as I drift into sleep, or stupor, she sings softly, as she slowly piles fire warmed riverstones on my chest, sewing a shroud around me, surrounding me in burlap and linen, preparing me for the deepest sleep. Her long, curved, sailmaker’s handneedle, with coarse thread of horsehair and candle wax moves through skin and linen with the rhythm of her voice; the pain of black and blue all the more precious with her whisper. 

    Down the ridge, at the edge of the coppiced oak grove, Pensée carries her broken bone bag, gathering kindling twigs and deadwood for the fire; the only practical one among us. She was once my muse, now she stays in the shadows, beyond the tallow lamps. She may save me from the lake tonight, if only for another day, when I can make my way home again.




Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Into the Quiet

Into the Quiet ~ L'assemblage by Michael Douglas Jones  ©2019




6:23 ante meridiem per diem

Outside on the cedar bench; my old friend, the cedar bench; the two of us, grayed with age, ready for the rising. Due east, rounding glow starts, across the upper branch valley, beyond the woodfield ridge. In spring, the blush begins in the gap between the tall trees, and each new bud has a song that soon surrounds; maple song starts its chitterchirping, the pines join in with simple rhythm, before the oak arpeggio; every morning tree song sounds like birdvoice, but birds are not yet visible; the crows will be the first to fly and caw the all clear.

From all the way across the valley, fog filled mist moves toward me. Breathing in the cool calm air; deep enough to fill the empty; just enough to last the day. Air, cool and deep as the floods of freshet.

Within ten minutes, the graffiti of contrails and car horns overwhelms the atmosphere.

The simplest of pleasures, being filled in the quiet unfolding of this day. Not silence; silence is a different pleasure.



Monday, August 5, 2019

It was twenty years ago today...


Time it was 
And what a time it was, it was 
A time of innocence 
A time of confidences

Long ago it must be 
I have a photograph 
Preserve your memories 
They're all that's left you.

~ Paul Simon 1968

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Annalist

Annalist ~ L'assemblage by Michael Douglas Jones  ©2019






Who are we?

We are the waking; taking our first full breath.

Breathing in, we are the blending of all books,
the scribbling pencil points,
the overwhelmed annalists listening for the silence
between crow caws and motorcars.

Breathing out, we are this that is not named.

Breathing in, we are the gathering of grace;
the last scribes in the retinue, tallying the miracles,
illuminating manuscripts of unseen symphonies from
early morning mockingbirds.

Breathing out, we are this that is not named.

Breathing in, we are all that ever was.

Breathing out, we are all that ever will be.

Breathing in, we are.

Breathing out, we.

Breathing in.

Breathing.


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Friday, July 12, 2019

The Beekeeper’s Boy

HONNING ~ L'assemblage by Michael Douglas Jones  ©2019






There was a time when I planned an Art & Essay show called The Blacksmith and The Beekeeper’s Boy. They represented two different aspects of life in the mid-nineteenth century and, for that matter, in this twenty-first century, perhaps all centuries. My grandfather was the last blacksmith in our long family line of blacksmiths. In 1950, my father could not raise a family as a blacksmith, so he tried many hats; fireman, farmer, grocer, union steward, jouster, and beekeeper. I am that beekeeper’s boy.

The blacksmith represents the technological, steampunk outlook of the future, where wondrous worlds will be hammered on the anvil of innovation, where invention will conquer any problem and make life an easy existence where we but ask, and invention obeys.

The beekeeper’s boy represents the timeless sense of nature where seasons drift into seasons, and life is fine as it is, slowly flowing forward as the river runs, moving to the ocean to join an even greater sea of life.

I am a child of these two aspects, searching for my place in both of their worlds; a somewhat bipolar existence, where I am content in neither world. It is this discontent that makes life painful, yet makes art possible.

The exhibit changed into the UNION, Art & Essay show that traveled the region. I may revisit the subject; I sold one of the pieces last weekend in the SKETCHBOOK exhibit at Gallery 322 and discovered that I had not photographed, or written about, the pieces that were completed.

Below are some of the notes on that series:

The beekeeper’s boy sits in the meadow,
in the murmur of the moment;
watching the movement of rising and falling;
the bees, their being, and non-being.

Watching, waiting, listening for the bees.
Was that their whisper,
was that the wind, 
or just the whir of white noise.

Colony collapse has finally hit the hive.

The beekeeper’s boy, who raised this rabble,
must now give them up.

The queen is quietly mercurial;
the swarm is more like mayhem.

Still, he had seen the miracle
moving through the meadow.

The beekeeper’s boy sits in the meadow, in the moment;
the minute hours of this moment,
where future will not arrive, and past no longer matters.

The useful Arts and Mysteries, the apicultural history,
the architecture of Aristaeus, all have crumbled,
like wax cappings near recently robbed hives,
like shell casings near recently robbed lives.

Still, he had seen the miracle

moving through the meadow.



Monday, July 1, 2019

Sketches; SoyezArtiste

Sketches; SoyezArtiste~ L'assemblage by Michael Douglas Jones  ©2019




In the muted colors after morning, softened by the mask of sleep, I first saw the artist’s muse. It was the day of the amber light from the solar eclipse, and I had overstayed in bed again, eclipsed myself by dark depression, unable to draw, unable to look at my pencils and papers.

My eyes were closed, but a whisper woke me, then she flowed down around me, surrounding me with her scent, focusing me on her smile. She whispered, “Let me do that,” and started to move her hands around me, tai chi around me, long hair above me. She moved her hands through me as though I was a cloud. She knows I am vapor; her waves flow unobstructed through me and I lose my breath, lose my voice.

In my silence, she spoke again, “With the first sketch in your mind, you think that you and I are two, when we are one. Don’t look for me; I am here. I walk with you, not behind or beside, but with you, closer than a Doppelganger.” Then her hands melted into mine and we took up my pencils, drawing black and white sketches of foregrounds and backgrounds that blended together, like a teardrop in an ocean. It frightened me, for I could not see her face; as I cannot see my own eyes. I was not ready to blend together, to be one thing without separation.

From the teardrop, she again became separate and floated across the room. As I reached out to her, she moved toward the door, with my sketches in her hand, saying, “Don’t look for me, I am always here.” I did not believe her and rushed to lock the latch, but she had disappeared into the forest where there was no path. I brought out a lantern to light the day that was night in the solar eclipse, but I could not find her path.

Now my fingers reach out in the cool of the middlenight and feel her heat, but I cannot see her. I leave gifts outside the locking latch; I wait; I worry; I press my palms against my head, but until I believe her and again become vapor, I will not see her, though she is soft in sleep beside me.


Saturday, June 15, 2019

Our Ancient Pages

Our Ancient Pages~ L'assemblage by Michael Douglas Jones  ©2019





   I was born of this earth, born of this soil, as you were born, and there comes a time when we long to return to our first home, where we once walked the long line of follow thy father, yet we find that the border is closed; we are no longer welcome, our clothes, our skin, our name, has changed. The marksmen walk behind the long line of eastern pine, their rifle barrels catch and throw the shine of midday sun, and they watch the dead line. In the length of a lifetime, I longed to cross the border, I walked just this side of the dead line, my father's blood oiled pistol in my waistcoat, ready for the fight, my fear, forgotten in the fatigue of age, but there was a wisdom that stopped me. I remembered the pages, so I turn south, moving back beyond the tree line, to sit upon the split oak until dayend, to wait for the moonless road, when I will return to my ancient home, to the earth, to the soil of my birth.

 Tucked inside a pocket of my soul coat, deep behind my weary heart, I carry the ancient pages; fragments mostly, of stories told across the oakwood smoke of low winter fires, from fathers to sons, from nursing mothers to every baby born. The heroes, whose small deeds grew like sown seeds through the generations, whose names were changed by each new ruling religion; heroes, whose love grew into compassion and invention which appeared to be magic, which begat faith, which was written into law, which forced war, which drew blood, drew borders, until love stole across the lines of limit to find itself in the face of another whose speech was foreign, but whose coat pocket contained the same ancient pages.

   Tucked inside our soul coats, deep behind our hearts, we, each and all, carry our ancient pages, and cross borders, until there are no more borders, and we are all the same; born of this soil.




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Friday, April 12, 2019

Monocacy

Monocacy ~ L'assemblage by Michael Douglas Jones  ©2019







I am becoming more and more aware of time; the days, the months, now years spent away from home. Soon, I will turn twenty-four, but I feel as tired and worn as a hobbled greybeard, as though my life has passed; I should be home. I should have lived life, as it was promised. While this war has dragged on and on, approaching its fourth year, there are so many opportunities I have missed. I should have lived a quiet life, instead of riding with the firebrands. I should have watched the red-winged blackbird near the river run, instead of watching red blood turn black on the banks of the Monocacy River. I should have shared an ale at the tavern with my friends, not buried them there. I should have farmed with my brothers, instead of fighting my other brothers from the northern states. I should have lived by now.

By now, I should have taken on my role as adult, to take care of my mother and father, as they cared for me. I should have built my own home, a small cottage down near the Wilderness Run, where I could listen to cool deep waters of spring freshet. By now, I should have married, and danced many a Virginia Reel in the parlor with my dearest Marianna. I should have started a family; the tiny tickle of babies laughing should have filled my rooms, filled my heart.

I should have built a red bank barn and raised a fine stable of Morgan horses by now. In the three years that I have lost, I should have planted and harvested, planted and harvested, and then, planted once more. I should have seen the seasons, the spring growing, the winter resting; all that, I should have lived it.

My list of should could go on and on, but I should not dwell upon it. I will have my time to live that life of simple treasures; I will take note and honor every moment. It is a time that hundreds of thousands of boys will now never have; hundreds of thousands buried far from the life they should have lived.

I should live; I could have died.




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Monday, March 25, 2019

Freshet

Freshet ~ L'assemblage by Michael Douglas Jones  ©2019





I am spent; you may not see me in my winter rest, thirty steps down the bank, off the burnt hill road, beyond the long line of scrub pines, where the split-rail remnants trail off, but there I am, blending back into the breath of soft soil. My last companion is a wake of vultures, the black angels of carrion come. I am the ribcage in the cornfield.

I know I had more to give, had I walked with you; I was held back by my doubts, not in you, but in me. On every road, I turned off before reaching the ridge. This day, my will is too weak to return to the road, so I rest here until spring.

Try as I might, when I return, I won’t remember this; the days will grow longer; I will walk these roads with you again, and one day, we will reach the ridge.

Until that day, I am the last deep snow melting into a warming soil ready to receive new seed. On that day, you shall see me as the revival of rivers in the floods of spring freshet.


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Monday, March 11, 2019

To Raise the Rising Moon

To Raise the Rising Moon ~ L'assemblage. ©MichaelDouglasJones 2019



    Raising the rising moon begins early, before the heat of sun holds it down. Commerce, with its attendant travelers, moves about the day, not noticing nature’s rising and receding, not noticing the receiving and returning rhythm of breath. It is not until the full moon rises into the night lighthouse that the weary ones, the waking ones, stop and watch for just a moment, to take in the wonder of the rising.


Saturday, March 2, 2019

The Books We Carry

The Books We Carry ~ L'assemblage ©MichaelDouglasJones 2019




Often, in the last days of our winter fever, we look back at the crooked path we’ve worn in the ending season, using that same past to plan the future.

Weighted down, but ready, we bring our bricks and baggage to pave a perfectly patterned road ahead. Then, as always, the earth shifts, cracks occur, and we start to stumble; yearly, wearily living along another winding path. Shift happens on this planet, we can’t plan it away. We can make scenarios, make contingencies, but we can’t make sure. There is simply no way to chart the changes that come along in a decade, so finally this year, I’m leaving my bricks behind, while I wander a bit. I still have much of my baggage, but I feel lighter already.

I still have the books I carry, in my head, in my heart; the books I wrote, the books I remembered, the books with my scribble in the margins; that is who I truly am. I am as you are, we are of the ancients. We are of the now, and the forevernow. These are the books we carry; this is who we are. We are the waking; taking our first full breath. We are the words we whisper when we turn the page.

Breathing in, we are the blending of all books, the scribbling pencil points, the overwhelmed annalists listening for the silence between crow caws and motorcars.

Breathing out, we are this that cannot be named.

Breathing in, we are the gathering of grace; the last scribes in the retinue, tallying the miracles, illuminating manuscripts of unseen symphonies from early morning mockingbirds.

Breathing out, we are this that cannot be named.

Breathing in, we are all that ever was. Breathing out, we are all that ever will be.









Thursday, February 28, 2019

To Measure The Moon


To Measure the Moon ~ L'assemblage ©MichaelDouglasJones 2019





Breaking day sun slips through the thornapple branches in jagged cuts of light and night. I rise with its pain, and listen, but Courage does not call out commands, or curse from atop the porch step to the chattel below; she will not wait for reinforcements. Courage whispers, and walks toward the plank road where the work will be done. She does not ask to be Courage, as I do; she takes the task at hand and handles it now, so I walk behind her fo a time, in the early morning, as the fog lifts beyond the tree line. We are tasked this day to measure the moon, at the ridgetop, a full day’s journey, and the many that stay behind say it cannot be measured, it is beyond our scope, and the demons on the ridge are many. Courage wears the scars and creases of those demons, so I will walk behind her awhile, and ask to be Courage for this one day.

I wear my father’s butternut overcoat, and deep inside the left pocket is the Colt pistol that he turned on himself, in the war before this war. I carry the weight of that Colt, the weight of that coat, the wet wool heavy on my scars and shoulders, and every morning, I reach into its worn pocket, moving my fingers across the blood and oil polished pistol grip, knowing that I am on his path; knowing that his way was thick with thorns and tangled honeysuckle vines, with deep mud, and deeper madness, and I ask to be Courage for this one day.

Courage is quiet, and walks with a steady step through the tall grass, even as the grade steepens near the slip rail, a full furlong before the plank road, where the work will be done. I fall behind in the high noon sun, my heavy boots caked with the drying mud of years lost, trudging the circling path of thorn and vine. By late afternoon, Courage is a shrinking silhouette on the west ridge, and I am remembering the cool shade of the hawthorn and the thick sweet scent of honeysuckle, its taste on my lips, so I sit for awhile to consider my direction for tomorrow, and move the pistol to my right pocket.

 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Lace of Life

Lace of Life ~ L'assemblage by Michael Douglas Jones  ©2019




This lace of life
forever hides
as much as it reveals.






Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Once




On a February, cold and dreary, Wednesday afternoon, in the empty aisle of gift wraps and greeting cards, past the paper plates and party hats, a lace gray grandmother, with spectacles and a pocket magnifier, lingers alone, reading sentimental Valentines, just like the ones her children used to send her.



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