Morning Song

You wake up to the phrase “salt lick”

You realize you know not one thing

About salt licks—you know salt

And lick  but together? How does

The salt lick lick salt?


You know you are moving

To the land of word games

Or musical instruments

Unstrung, battered—too much play


Each day the gleaners walk side walks

In search of bottles. They separate

Already separated bags to find precious

Glass, that is plastic. They hate the cans


They know the places where beer

Overwhelms soda; where huge milk

Cartons say children, many children

Live here. They do not whistle when they


Work. They do not lick sweat

Off tired arms. They go about

The business of poverty with grace

And noise. Early morning dragging

The weight of others waste.

forthcoming in Tribes anthology with art work by Yuko Otomo


HARVEST: A Lucent Fire from White Pine Press and About Place Journal now “live”

A Lucent Fire

Cover: A Lucent Fire: New and Selected


This year has been one of my most productive and I am so pleased to have my newest full-length collection: A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems covering work from 1975 to the present!  It’s been quite a trip.  I am looking forward to getting this new book into the hands of readers.  My publisher Dennis Maloney has created a wonderful promotion:

To celebrate the release of our latest volume in our Distinguished Poets Series, A Lucent Fire: New & Selected Poems by Patricia Spears Jones, if you order from the White Pine website we will include another White Pine title of our choosing with your order.
Rowan Ricardo Phillips says of this collection: “There is a wise and dangerous fire in Jones’ poetry that harkens back to James Baldwin and, further back to the Old Testament: the past–both a highly personal past and an expansive civic past–”

So check out my new book!  Read, let e know what you think.  Enjoy

On October 5, The Future Imagined Differently Imagined for About Place Journal went live at

Poets, essayists, artists, composers are included from Myra Sklarew, Marcella Durand, Shelagh Patterson, Margo Berdeshevsky, Tony Medina, Purvi Shah, William Nixon, Ras Moshe Barnett, Jason Kao Hwang, Robbie McCauley, Beverly Naidus and the great Brasilian artist, Denise Milan.

Happy Dance Happy Dance

photo by Rachel Eliza Griffths

photo by Rachel Eliza Griffths


what can I say, summer has been summer

Tai Allen, birthday guy

Tai Allen, birthday guy

today I came home to my messy apartment filled with a sense of cheer.  all day long  “I feel free” rolled about my head–darn, I never got to see Eric Clapton live. but if I had i would have pretty much rolled about in “I feel free”. Mostly this is because I was getting my hair done by my stylist, a young woman I deeply admire.  Nadia Vassell is one of the rare Black entrepreneurs in the very now gentrified Lower East Side. Tai Allen, a fine poet and designer is working on a beer/wine festival–people make money in all kinds of ways.  Charmaine Bee, a terrific artist has her own Gullah Girl Tea on the side. Atim Oton now has four stores and is running around probably working on Store #5.   I think all of these young(er) Black people are so smart, so energetic and disciplined and they make me pleased to alive to see them make a difference.  They make me smile.  They give me hope.

Someone sent me a link to a piece I wrote in 1998.  It’s about poetry and how one could use poetry.  Lorenzo Thomas urged me to write this essay.  He is my poet/spirit being.  I miss him.  His encouragement kept me going when things went wrong.  If he had not ask for this work, it would have been written.  Enjoy.



They are not bodies

There have been numerous op-ed pieces about “the Black body”–the vulnerable, often violated “Black body”.  And while I understand this phrase and its meaning I often find myself angry with it.  It is reductive.  It removes the personalities, the narratives of the specific human beings who were vulnerable and violated.  Black lives matter.  Black lives have narratives that explode the ideal of justice and equality and respect that should be the foundation of a great Republic.  Black lives matter because if there was justice, equality and respect no one would write about “the Black body.”

The men and women who have been killed by members of law enforcement and/or their allies over the past few years have names and narratives that go beyond the sensational ways in their lives were interrupted have names, had lives that mattered to someone who loved them, cared about them, worried over them and now mourn them. #blacklivesmatter.

Sandra Bland should still be breathing and so should so many other people with names.  Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and many others. They are not “bodies” to me.  They are young and old, poor and middle class, well educated and street wise, family people, single and looking,  going to college or dropped out.  They had smiles and told stories and maybe knew how to dance or write or served as emergency babysitters. They are not bodies. They have parents, siblings, cousins, uncles and aunts, a favorite teacher or teachers they hated.  Someone saved their baby teeth.  Someone has their pictures in a Bible.  Their mothers wear White and seek solace and justice. Their mothers speak to the media, but speak to them in private. They are not bodies. They should be breathing. They should be smiling and planning a party or angry and cursing or studying geometry or checking out new games or walking around.  They have names. They have families. They have stories. They are not bodies.


new poems this summer

This summer I have poems in very different places:  Upstreet, a print journal frm Massachusetts.  Cutthroat, a journal from Colorad0–this one is a tribute issue to Joy Harjo and Linda Hogan.  And two poems



Whispers and prayers in The Brooklyn Rail was created in response to the horrific killings

in Charleston, SC.  Blossoms in the gyre in Cutthroat is a way of connecting nature, spirit and the struggle for justice.  Poets are working.  Poets are working hard.


Half -moon blues

Last night I sat on my neighbor’s stoop. She is a retired nurse. The sky was clear. The moon half-full and both of us were both furll of anguish and rage. She said “I can’t watch the news, this story” and then we discussed what most likely happened to Sandra Bland. My neighbor could have been Ms. Bland. So could I. The video of the State Trooper’s “arrest” of Ms. Bland is horrifying. “There was no reason, no reason” my neighbor muttered. “And he kept saying put down your cell phone”. That video shows male rage at its most naked. Had that trooper written the ticket and walked away, Ms. Bland would be either paying a fine or disputing the ticket. She’s dead. We sat there and just marveled at our own “luck.”

photo by Patricia Spears Jones

Macon Street roses, Bed-Stuy

Summer is here, a garden, a massacre

Japanese Garden

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

0617151505Last Wednesday on a day that represented my break from teaching, I walked about the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  The day had begun soft, gray, moist, but once I got to the garden around 2 p.m. the sun began to break out a huge bright smile over this very walkable feast of a place.  The Garden is undergoing rapid change–new plantings, old trees that fell during Superstorm Sandy.  The variety of roses were in various stages of blooming and closing–the old roses slowly being brought back after a horrific blight.  Yellows, pinks, reds, whites, lilac, even silver colors and climbing flowers make the garden one of the mirthful places in this world.  I remember walking with my sister many years ago in the garden and we found varieties from 1919, the year our Mother was born.  And ones named for movie stars and Presidents.  But it is the Japanese Hill and Garden that I was really happy to see after too long an absence.  White and purple irises were in bloom, and there have been recent prunings of the trees–in many ways the Garden is an arboretum.  And the paths towards the Shinto Shrine, one of the oldest examples in the U.S. had been cleared and recent plantings made it seem particularly lush.  All that green and the glorious orange red portal in the pond.  I have prayed there.  said good bye to a lover there.  Called the names of those lost to terror or storm or old age.  I had no idea that later on, so much terror would be unleashed but in Charleston, SC and nine Black American church people including Rev. Clementa Pinckney would be assassinated.  Who could think of such horror while walking through the beauty of a garden, which is a very human made sculpture?

We can make gardens, but we have difficult time in these United States of looking at our history; at the brutal, vicious and violent treatment of African Americans and finding ways to end racism and brutality towards Black People.  The assassin who sat for an hour in Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church did not expect welcome.  Had no idea that Black people are polite and sharing.  Seemed almost undone by courtesy.  But not enough.  The Devil’s work had to be done.  Not a phrase used, but giving the religious overtones of this political assassination, Rev. Pinckney was a sitting state senator, it seems appropriate.  The assassin is not mentally ill.  He is filled with hatred and he had a gun (gift?) and he wanted that most American of celebrity–infamy.  His name will not be mentioned here.

But if he wanted to trigger a war between the races, he failed.  The race war is between Whites.  This is where Whites of decency, generosity, civility are going to have to decide how much longer they can benefit from White Supremacy, an ideology that does not bother saying its name and ignore those Whites who are brutal, mean spirited, violent and racist who kill, maim in their name.  Because believe me, Black people are done with this.  We are not interested in being moving targets for angry White people.  We know that White Supremacy exists and are done with explaining to the people who created this ideology what they are doing.  We are most willing to defend ourselves, but as Richard Wright noted many many years ago, they got more guns.

So I am hopeful that with the demand to remove the hateful Confederate battle flag from South Carolina capitol grounds; with the commentary in social media from Blacks and Whites and Asians and Native Americans and others on hate crimes, racism that others also have come to that enough is enough moment.  Because with the murders of decent, hard working, charismatic, generous African American citizens who were studying their Bible, a shift in the zeitgest is underway.  America has and may never be “post-racial.”  Barack Obama is President because he was the best candidate for the job and thinking people know that. But his election is but one of the many things that show how the zeitgeist is unfolding.  We are at the start of a serious discussion about ending racism in this country.  This is not a conversation on race–that is stupid.  Racism represents the worst of America’s character and character can be altered, changed.  Racism has got to go.

Rock Rose-BBG. In memory of the Nine.

Rock Rose-BBG. In memory of the Nine.

on recent curation–WORDS SUNDAY

One of the best things about being a poet is that I am also a reader and a listener.  And like many other readers and listeners, when given the opportunity, I enjoy organizing readings.  Atim Oton, an entrepreneur and in her own way community activist decided to open a “Pop Up” of her store, Calabar Imports, in Bed-Stuy near my home.  So I took the opportunity to create WORDS SUNDAY.  A Fall Schedule ended with a great reading by Gregory Pardlo from his brilliant second collection, Digest which recently won the Pulitzer Prize and Alexis De Veaux who’s amazing career includes poetry, fiction collections, and an important biography of Audre Lorde.  The Spring events started with younger, emerging poets Terence Degnan and Soraya Shalforoosh.  Soraya, while volunteering with Four Ways Books asked me to read for their series a week before 9-11.  Poets are elephants, we remember especially the kindnesses of our colleagues.  And the final event in June included Janice Lowe, who I asked to start the entire series; Tai Allen and Ekere Tallie–they were lively and we had a great conversation about the continuing influence of the Black Arts Movement.   I am proud of my work as a curator and hope to do more of this part of my work.  Some pictures from WORDS SUNDAY, Calabar Imports Bed-Stuy Pop-up Brooklyn New York.

Words Sunday

Chat with Gregory Pardlo and Alexis De Veaux November 2014


Renato Rosaldo and Patricia Spears Jones chatting

Words Sunday, March 2015

Words Sunday, March 2015


June 7 event-first one w/ three readers. Janice Lowe was joined by Meredith Wright and Yahann, musicians and singers

The day after May Day thank you Jacob Lawrence with event link!

03311520130501152026a03301519020330151954a If I could say that someone waved a magic wand around me, I would say it is because of Jacob Lawrence, an important artist whose work continues to refresh the imagination to this day.  I first saw half of the Migrations Series in the 1970s at the Philllips Collection in D.C.  I think because of Richard J. (Rick) Powell, who was then a artist/scholar/curator kind of guy.  I was stunned.  These little paintings told stories about the South and the very real reasons that Black people left-had to leave.  The next time I saw the panels was at the Whitney I think along with other series, The Builders, etc.  Again, the stories in colors vivid and bold lines–the generosity towards Black folks, the pride of Black folks, the folk of Black folks–his painting allowed the narrative to sing through.

So when Elizabeth Alexander  (she’s the very tall imposing diva next to moi) asked me to create a poem in response to the Series, I was both excited and terrified.  How to do justice to this work?  How not imitate in words what he had already done in paint?  How to add to the discourse on the Black Migration?  How.  Last August when I was the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, I re-looked at each of the panels and realized that Panel 57 was what I returned to.  She’s the only single female figure in the entire series.  She’s wearing white.  There’s a cross in the picture.  I thought of my cousin Hassie, who was head Usher at the Baptist church she attended.  I thought of the aunts who came down from Chicago and Detroit looking fly.  I thought of the harsh beauty of the south and the hard heartedness of southern white leadership.  And then I realize that the best way into the poem was through scent.  If you get the catalog you can read “Lave”.  If you attend the exhibition, up till September 7, you can hear me and the other poems read our work in one of exhibition room.   You can hear great music in other rooms (I am in a picture with the great opera singer, Kevin Maynard)  On May 1, May Day, International Worker’s Day, we read at the Museum of Modern Art.

Hopefully, this link will take to what was one of my proudest moments as a poet and a Black woman who has lived long enough to know the harsh beauty remains in the South as does menace towards Black people, poor people–but I also know that the struggles have moved North, have taken a more complicated hard heartedness.  But like our ancestors, we keep moving and when needed like the laundress, we find work, we do the work, we stand on whatever ground we can.

Again, I thank Elizabeth Alexander.  Leah Dickerman, Sarah Kennedy, Jennifer Harris and a great crew at MOMA; the film studio guys, the really nice guards, the wait staff for any and all dinners, the whole sense of conviviality.  Because ultimately, Lawrence shows how Black people embrace life in all of its complications from loving to loss; from brutality to struggles for justice.  We really do keep on keeping on.  And if you cannot embrace that simple thought you are starved of humanity.  Praises to the Ancestors.  Praises to the poets.

The reading was live streamed on youtube, here is the link.