Robert L. Jones III

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Like the Ox

Creation groans.
I hear it every night I spend on the river:
Hoarse croaks of frogs and herons,
Worried whining of insect society,
The flip, gurgle, and splash
Of catfish pinning their prey against the bank.
Underwater and in the trees and thickets,
Eyes wide open,
Living, conscious things are consumed.

My wife and I once interrupted
A grim couple in the woods:
A garter snake swallowing a blinking toad,
Slowly, with jaws unhinged.
Wanting to intervene,
But not knowing which side to take,
We walked away,
Confused and embarrassed,
And left them in privacy.

My rubber boots sinking in the mud,
Am I now, with baited hook,
Participating in the curse
Or merely interrupting it?
I shiver slightly
In the humid night air,
Anticipating the tug on my line,
And I long to see
The lion eating straw like the ox.

Under the Boughs of the Spreading Oak

The sun is high, and light waves dance and wiggle
Through the heat. Ghostlike, images rise from the land,
Fleeting. Everywhere, all is hot and very still.
Humidity grays the green of distant trees.

Like Abraham, he waits near the door to his dwelling
Under the boughs of the spreading oak,
Waits for angels to proclaim the birth of something new,
Something to make his ears tingle.

Would angels, in their shining,
Stand out from the mirages in the fields?
Would he recognize them should they appear?
Will the atmosphere vibrate with promise and warning?

Fanciful expectancy threatens to distort perception,
Plant the seeds of deception and disappointment,
Should he grow careless in the soothing shadow
Under the boughs of the spreading oak.

Robert L. Jones III is Professor Emeritus of Biology at Cottey College. His poems and stories have appeared in Sci Phi Journal, Star*Line, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and previously in Heart of Flesh. He and his wife reside in southwestern Missouri.

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Photo Credit: “Catfishing on the River Ebro, 2006” by David Keep, CC BY 2.0, via

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