National Poetry Month – Jonathan Rice

Jonathan is one of the first local poets I met almost twenty years ago, at the same Cathy Smith Bowers reading where I also met Karon Luddy. We’ve stayed in touch and remained good friends since. We were part of the same critique group for several years, eventually drifting on to other things. Jonathan’s ‘other thing’ was to start a poetry journal, Iodine Poetry Journal. For seventeen years Jonathan published poets from all over the world, and many of the journal’s covers were his original paintings.

Reading Jonathan’s poems, one feels like you’re walking alongside him as he turns every day, mundane happenings and events into something new, while he says, ‘Hey look at this!’ Through his poetry he elevates the blue-collar worker, makes political commentary with humorous or philosophical undertones, and reminds us of the beauty we’re missing if we don’t spend time out in nature.

From Killing Time, published by Main Street Rag Publishing, posted with the poet’s permission.

Inmates

The orange diamond-shaped sign

reads “Litter Pickup.”

 

Guys in orange jumpsuits

with “Inmate” on their backs

 

drag orange trash bags

down the side of the road.

 

Two deputies in orange

vests over uniforms

 

carry shotguns as they walk

with the inmates and scrutinize

 

the garbage they pick up in their

selective search for litter.

 

I like how the orange makes all things

appear equal.

 

Cardboard Drum

Young man at the curb

by the grocery store

squats to play a cardboard box,

 

taps out rhythms

with his nimble hands

hopes for spare change,

maybe a dollar or two.

 

His audience slows down

for the traffic light.

A driver waves a buck.

 

He darts between cars,

grabs his money,

thanks the man loudly

and returns to his spot.

 

There is praise in his voice,

promise in his cadence,

the beat of his cardboard drum.

 

Morning Walk

Mallards glide

through the woods,

almost unnoticed

as I walk the trail,

 

it’s almost spring

but winter’s chill

lingers through

the morning fog

 

that will lift by

noon. A fallen

branch lies like an

overturned canoe

 

at a bend in the trail

where a rabbit sits

motionless. I slow

my walk so I don’t

 

startle him and I

wonder what it

would be like

to be that small

 

in a forest, how

it would all seem

so endless to explore

the ever-changing

 

surroundings,

every tree limb that

fell, every new plant

that sprang up,

 

the forest clutter,

the sun and shadows,

rivulets and rain puddles,

every morning

 

a patch of something new.

 

‘Morning Walk’ was previously published in Dead Mule School of Southern Literature

Jonathan’s answers to my questions ~

I’m not sure how old I was when I wrote my first poem. My mom used to read me poems by Robert Louis Stevenson when I was a kid, so I probably attempted to write something like he would. But I became more focused on writing poetry when I was around 12 or 13 in the seventh grade and I’m sure it was probably about my love for a girl who lived down the block from me. Who would I like to drink with? That’s a tough one. Carl Sandburg immediately came to mind. I thought of others, but I’ll stick with Sandburg.

Jonathan co-hosts two monthly poetry readings and open mics. The Third Friday Reading Series at The Third Place in Charlotte, 7:00, with M. Scott Douglass – who will be featured later this month. And the Waterbean Poetry Night at the Mic at Waterbean Coffee in Huntersville, the 4th Wednesday at 7:00, with Leslie Rupracht – who was featured here a day ago.

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