Jonathan Douglas Dowdle



1) They Ask Me When

They ask me when I will turn the tides,
And I say I will not,
For turning tides always leaves
Someone drowning, instead,
I will calm the seas of my heart
Against the storm’s unfolding,
Against the violence
Which is always awakening,
Which has forgotten
How to sleep.

They ask me of my heart, and I say,
There is too much compromise,
And too little, that
We do not hear the words we speak,
We only know what we hear;
That we must return to listening to
Our own language
As though we were strangers,
That we must learn
To understand again
Before attempting to continue, or change
The conversation.

They ask me if I will mend
The bruises in my heart, and I say
“I do not know”,
For life has become an echo of itself,
And each footfall drifts through
The puddle of its own reflection,
Moving to create an image of stillness,
That is not still,
That is a fire eating
Its own fury.

They ask me when I will turn the tide,
And I say I will not,
I will not,
I will learn to calm
The seas.



2) On The Border Of Misanthropy

The bartender tries to strike up a conversation,
How long she waited
To take this job (6 months),
And how little she makes at it; I offer
Only pleasantries in turn,
I have not come to speak,
To: read, drink, sing, yes,
But not for communion, music, perhaps,
A momentary church, all else

She shakes her chest at the disc jockey
Who returns the symbol, thinking,
Because I have looked down, away,
I am secretely eyeing her; not noticing,
Nor noting, I’ve read the tired look
In her fading blue eyes, and
Crooked teeth behind
A smile that tells a tale of
Brought onto her own body
Better than I ever could, the other
Patron’s laugh at the sight,
I do not turn,
I am ready
To depart.

The night carries on as someone
Whispers an apology for me
I am not meant to hear, as it is
With so much else,
I thin my lips, and press my eyes
Back into a book, word after word
Bleeding this haunted habitat
Away, trying to not
See the echo of so much
Broken humanity
For something to break.

I sing one last song, and
Depart, waiting
For no one, and nothing, and
Try to cast off
The oil slick weight
Of the night,
As I close the door
The night embraces me, and
I am reminded of why
I am less lonely



3) Once

I spoke as though
I could learn the language
That could erase
The religion born between
The undoing
The Undone
Only now
Do I understand
I must find some sweeter song
In the softest
Of silences, and find a way
To give it
Amid the chaos of each wild heart,
There is no other method of music,
There never was.



4) Unfinished

Days and hours stretch
Where the body is no more
Than a keepsake
To store, stories incomplete,
Fractures of frayed threads; and we
Always slipping between
The fractures, the broken places,
Leaving silence
To end all the things
We invariably leave



5) A Ghost Of A Complaint

I’ve watched you
Invent yourself, the same story
Hour after hour, whispered
Into ear after ear, as though
You knew no mercy for all
That rested within your heart,
That you learned to believe
If you stitched another skin
Long enough
Another life would blossom
When you shrugged into the invention,
When you stitched up the remnants
When you created the fiction,
When it finally came to life.

I want to tell you: the real work
Takes as long, and only that long,
To crack open the heart slowly and confess
Not the phantom image
Painted against the hall of another mind,
But your true, unadultered, stained light,
To grow, as a world would,
As the world you once were, did,
Into something else, to stretch,
To embrace,
To ripen with time, and season, and yes,
Even without vanity
To wither.

All else seems but a slow murder,
The sword turned
Two ways, and always cutting away
The things
Even your desire tries
To embrace.

I say this that you might
Learn the lesson now,
Learn the lesson now,
For time is not a patient thing,
And plays not the games, nor gambles of
Men, no,
Time is not a patient thing
And there may only be
One more hour
Before the story
Is at its end.



Jonathan Douglas Dowdle was born in Nashua, NH and has traveled throughout the US, he currently resides in South Carolina. Previous works have appeared in 322 Review, and Hobo Camp Review.