Poetry: Issue #6

Tabasco by Robert Cadena
*Image: “Tabasco” by Robert Cadena

Brock Jones

Featured Poet



Waffle House, West Fillmore, April 2006

He says it’s his turn to pay
so I wait by the door

on the far side of a mid-morning
crowd of diners waiting for seats.

Music trickles from ceiling speakers
barely heard over voices and coffee spoons.

A bald cook taps the grill with a spatula
and wipes his neck.

A couple holds hands
across a table.

Markose, who kills himself in four months,
passes bills over a counter

to a girl who says something
and points to his uniform.

His response makes her laugh
as he gestures keep the change.




Osh’s cargo pockets split, spilling books he carried every patrol into the road like wrungnecked pigeons spinning dust circles, one wing propelling the spin with each downbeat, the other caught between the limp body and road. We didn’t take as a sign the coming apart of the books, their spines broken from use and heat, nor how they avoided retrieval when we halted the patrol to give Osh time to gather fistfuls of paper, nor that he boarded our flight home a few months after his pockets tore from the weight and friction of his superstition having, the night before, tossed the broken books, wing by wing, into the burn pit, nor the fact that both his pockets split open at precisely the same moment, the memory of which would set off a seizure of laughter among the small group of us huddled in the middle of a church three years later at his funeral.




Call this irrefutable:
he was gone in minutes,

blood a hole in asphalt
deep enough to swallow sky.

But fact is boxes awaiting checkmarks
on a Casualty Feeder Card,

hollow water bottles
tumbling in rotorwash,

medic frantically
twisting a failed tourniquet.

Such are the details
we can’t change: a heart

gasping for blood labors
finally into emptiness.

But since this is our story
let’s say he never realized he was dying

and slipped quietly off
the lip of his own life.

Say we had time and breath
enough for Goodbye.

See you later. Be well.



Waffle House, Jimmy Carter Blvd., Jan. 2014

What did I believe I would find
at this diner, empty of all but light?

Knowing none of the guys would be here,
that he wouldn’t be here

and I’d stare into empty booths for an hour,
filling them with ghosts and wishes

I brought with me from Utah, Colorado, Iraq?
Because this is where we’d meet

if he were alive, where he’d expect me to find him
with slap hug, wide smile, silence while we ate.

Because hope is a pull string
we find in the dark only

when it brushes our face
in the wild-arm search for bare light.



Day After Equinox

I lie on my cot
dressing a hemorrhage

of stars, night still wounded
from yesterday’s tracer rounds

and muzzle flash,
your letter across my chest:

How are you?
Has the weather changed there at all?
The rabbit brush along the tracks
in front of the house glows
like campfire in this light.

In the morning
I’ll scrawl you a note

about the clarity of stars
over western Iraq,

my wish for a change
of seasons, but will not name

the few facts I’ve learned
from this endless desert

or how I fear the nights
might seem colder now

the balance of day and night
has tilted, favoring darkness.


Brock Jones received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Wyoming and is currently pursuing a PhD in literature and creative writing at the University of Utah. Over the last decade, he’s served four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan for the US Army. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in the Iowa Review, Ninth Letter Online, Lunch Ticket, Sugar House Review, and other journals. He currently lives in Utah with his wife and daughter.

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