Poetry by Dylon Jones

"Untitled" by Janie Stamm / janiestamm.com



Mud Pit

The boys swarmed down the red banks as if hungry,
their four-wheelers kicking up slop-brown wings,
careening full speed between bodies caked & fecund
with eyes like bright seeds in the sludge.

They had never considered breaking,
these dozen dozen boys. Never muck
in a mouth not spit out.
They looked invincible
because they were.

I stood on the rim with the women,
hands pinned to hips, toes over the precipice,
more mother than child, heron than boy,
thin, blue, & poised

for flight. What does homesick mean
to a migratory bird? Their shirts
clung to them like clay. They shed them,
slung them to the banks & were clay. I couldn’t

say what kept me from them. I couldn’t
say what kept me spotless as they leaped
& lifted & tossed, shifting the very earth
as they moved. I couldn’t say

what I wanted from that bitter chocolate soup
of sandstone & water & men.
I knew but couldn’t understand
why I was the only one

who’d leave that place unclean.



Feeding the Whippoorwills

At dusk a moth crawls out of my mouth.
The want my soft tongue smothered grows
powdery wings that bear my eyes’ blue sins.
Taste of salt & milk & a boy I imagined.
Six eyelash legs on my lips.
It flutters into the crepuscular woods
with the small snowy message of its life:
What I am is unearthly & must resort to flight.
Up from under the kudzu-strife
the whippoorwills rise from their grounded nests
& speak the sound of quicksilver into the mid-spring night.
The grandmothers of the hollers say they call when a soul
finds home. Others that they hunt the spirits
of the unfulfilled for food. O moonlight—
buoying my insectoid confession, hanging
like a bridge toll’s coin of bone
in the bird’s obsidian eyes. Refract
in all the facets of the moth’s compound lenses
your high promise of cool flame. Distract
it from the widening maws of the psychopomps
approaching. & when they close their beaks
on the night’s hungry mission, keep
this secret for me. Let their bellies
be lanterns that leak no light.
Not even when they sing.




Dear spud cellar & bacon gravy, I’m sorry.
Dear woodstove’s ash pile over the hill,
It wasn’t my fault, not all. I sang along
with your whippoorwills, threaded my feet
through your creeks. You rooted in my lungs,
mudded into my skinned knees. You were
the ivy’s toxin on my toes & the aloe
Mamaw cut me. You were the tick in my navel.
Were you my blood? Perhaps before
you named me haint. Before I crawled
from the holler. Before you got
a Little Caesar’s. Before I got
a dead tooth. You tried to blame me
for what my mouth did, growing
into itself like quartz. You were the soil
that made the hydrangeas white, the wind
in the chimes that scared the deer
from the peach tree. & the peach tree.
& the deer. I was the hoofprint
it left behind. No. I was the moonlight
that filled it, then drained.



Letter to a Boy Back Home

Our words don’t fit your mouth.
Your otter, your pup,
your bear literal animals.

Even boy comes out wrong
falling from your lips Ken-dolled.
Poor seedless plum. The dead

garden behind your house
didn’t start there. Someone
long gone tore it up from the earth
& carried it to the holler
where the kudzu claimed it.

The same is true for boys like us.
We were not born in Kentucky we
were born in the woods & unrooted

replanted inside county lines.
If the native birds had named us
we’d be singing with the whippoorwills now
their nocturnal, silver elegy for spring.

Instead the coal carts full of fathers.
Instead the feathers in your throat.
Instead your name so thick with poison

oak you know it only as the rash
it leaves in your mouth.
Your lips red muscadine skins.

Come, little fruit.
These knives I ate will cut you


Dylon Jones is a queer writer from rural Appalachia. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where he works as the Senior Editor of Louisville Magazine. His poems have also appeared or are forthcoming in The Rupture, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Redivider, and Miracle Monocle. He tweets @Dyl_In_Lou.