My Southern legitimacy statement is as follows: I received a BA in creative writing at Penn State prior to moving to Chincoteague, VA and working as a house painter. Finding that career much too difficult, I moved to Greensboro, NC and received an MA in Theatre at UNCG. My writing career began in the Performing Arts where I worked for PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill. Subsequently, I was hired to manage a professional choir in Washington, DC, and later worked with avant-garde artist, Meredith Monk in Soho. In 1989 I joined the development staff at Duke University in Durham and received the Presidential Award in 2012 for my fundraising accomplishments. I currently host bi-monthly writers groups in fiction and poetry in Durham, where I live with my wife and cat. My poems have appeared in Main Street Rag, Avalon Literary Review, Better than Starbucks, and Delta Poetry Review and my writing can be found at jonathangileswriter.com. Whether Southern Pennsylvania, Chincoteague, Virginia, North Carolina or South of Houston Street in New York City, the South is a compass point that has provided my life and writing with spiritual direction.
Sons and Moon
The moon dangles, ghost in the late afternoon,
A pocked trophy my boy pretends to drive.
He dreams of monster trucks
and something cool to blow up
come Fourth of July.
At night, the moon snatches at wild grass,
lost behind a cracked 4×4, battered mailbox,
crucified by steel-toed shoes
and the bitter bite of a teenage-
At dawn, the moon flickers,
a dented, muddied, old Silverado hubcap
driven in anger over the battered,
bruising a dark domestic sky.
Love Sonnet with a Coda
We grew up handling Glocks
(I guess, a Southern thing),
loved the grey metal stock
as we practiced its ring.
Let’s reinvent the Glock
and give it raptors’ wings
to hunt over the blocks—
count the carnage it brings,
mask the permanent marks
as when it sweats and swings
and swiftly barks, barks, barks
no matter what bird sings.
Yes, my Glock can be a vicious thing:
A hooded condor tethered to string.
Oh, sing, sweet child, sing,
Oh, angry brother, sing, sing,
Oh, scorned lover, sing,
Oh, nervous officer—yes, you—
walking the darkened blocks,
You know what your Glock can do—
Sting, sting, sting.
I Found Your Grave in the Midday Sun
I found your grave in the midday sun,
I had grown old–
but you were still young.
Like a sad intruder, on my own
I slowly cleared the weeds from your stone
and laid down beside you in the grass–
the billowing clouds whispering past–
and thought, how happy we are at last.
But how could I think something like that?
–What did you feel about me, in fact?
Oh, I remember so clearly back
when I was young:
our blistering sun.
Back when we loved and learned the lesson
of living. But when your moment came,
I fled the torture and tearing strain–
alone in the imminent shock of
then shroud of your love.
Later, when I longed for another,
the pain I caused faded,
with thoughts of you crying in your grave.
Lying here now, I am unafraid.
I failed you once and pray for what comes:
kind atonement in a blazing sun.