Stephen Jones

Another Translation
For departing friends.
A journey of a thousand miles,Lao-tzu is supposed to have said,begins with a single step.But there is another translation:A journey of a thousand miles begins beneath our feet.It starts where we stand.Before the first stride.Before lifting the staff.Before movement.Before thought.Each moment a journey entire;an arduous climb to that wild mountaintopwhere the universe opens about us like a great flowerand we see what supports and sustains;bow to grass underfoot,bow to hard-packed earth,to concrete and broken glass,to a gnarled weed pressing through the smallest crack,upward from confinement,reaching toward the sun.

Endless Mountains
For Hwalson Sunim
No need to seek mountains.The world is generous.Tomorrow offers a rugged trailto the brilliant crest of Agiocochook.This day, like most,I labor on the slopesof my own ignorance and vanity.Mountains everywhere.Endless mountains.

So Here I Am
On my kneesin the kitchen.It’s 6 a.m.,not even light,and I’m on my kneeswiping dog shit off the floor,kneeling, bending, wiping in silencelike a monk making prostrations.Charley is outside.I had no heart to yelldespite the fouled floor,despite the late-night urgent barksthat woke me twice, at least.He looked so sad, morose, contrite,embarrassed at his failure of control,I couldn’t bring myself to scold.And really, I’m to blame.Twice my wife got up to let him out,but I just sternly called at him to hush,thinking he was merely boredor eager to assault some squirrelwho dared invade our yard.I should have known that it was something more;he never pesters that much late at nightonce we’re all in bed.But I was just so tired, exhausted —weary from the day behind,worried for the day ahead —I didn’t thinkthat he might need relief.So here I amon my knees,relinquishing the luxury of my showerto complete the task at hand,to make amends to Charley,to erase the stain of his (and my) chagrin,to restore his dignitybefore I leave for work,where I’ll try againto teach my students the importanceof paying attention.

Stephen Jones lives in Detroit and teaches history at Central Michigan University. His poems have appeared in Abandon Automobile, an anthology of Detroit poets, as well as in a number of other print and online publications -- including the first issue of Buddhist Poetry Review.