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Poetry By Shirley Jones-Luke

Stranger in a Known Land

after Yusef Komunyakaa

There was an old man on the corner,
holding a plastic cup, he wore
a plaid shirt & a worn Yankees cap,
baggy jeans & weather-beaten sneakers,
asking for change, he leaned against a
light pole as traffic flowed past him,
as people sidestepped his raggedy form,
he ignored their frowning faces &
yelled verses from the Bible in a deep,
hoarse voice which made people
walk by him even faster & drivers
glanced at him from their cars

The old man walked down the street, cradling
his cup in his hands, change bouncing against
each other. Sounded like he has a few dollars.
A good day’s haul. He can get a meal or a bottle
to quench his sore throat. The old man walked
with a purpose, passing by a liquor store without
even a glance, his gait, steady, as he approached
a fruit stand & stopped to examine its wares

Some apples and oranges, the old man asked. I have
money today.
The vendor nodded & smiled, filling two bags with the
requested fruit. The old man nodded in return, handing over
the money & walked away. His back a little
straighter. His face a little brighter. He will eat tonight. He may
even eat in the morning, before returning to his favorite
corner, sharing biblical verses with a world he knows,
but has forgotten him.

Looking In

In the window
in the pool

though the glass
left a stain

The gravity of hope
an image of change

Skewered visions
blurry thoughts

don’t hold onto the roots
save the trees

Singing for a savior
the menace of memory

Heavy? Yes.
a conversation for my spine

the grass grows to my knees
wipes away my doubts

lead me not into temptation
scripture makes an impact

Words so tiny on the page
filling every page

I’m fenced in by doubt
go away anxiety

Someone help me
see what’s within me


What legends are told in scrolls?
Secrets that are only known by
the selected, whispered through
the halls, knowledge slithers by
ignorant bodies like a snake.

Intelligence has always been
mistrusted, fear caused
people to flee their homes,
invaders claim as their own.

History has

given us savants,
huge egos, eccentric geniuses
who shattered ceilings and
bridged the gaps between nations.

These philosophers, thinkers,
educators of renown, they were
men and women without recognition
who contributed their minds
to solve the world’s problems,
furthering man’s progress.

Where would we be without
their scholarly input?

My Own Eden

The trees block
our front porch.
Our home can’t be seen from the street.
The air smells of old leaves and fresh earth
I don’t want to hang around with
Grandma in the garden.
It is her oasis from old age.
How she’s able to coax the sun there
has yet to be passed down to me.

Winter is over.
But Spring still waits for an invitation
to renew the soil, spread growth
across the land.
Grandma can’t wait.
Is that stubbornness or determination?
Grandma’s tools warm the earth
with just a gesture.

I care not for the dirt. It is a reminder.
My mother is buried beneath it.
The land is her blanket.
She is safe from worldly harm.
While I try to create my own
Eden of her from my memories.


Born to this planet,
footprints on the continent
I soar over my homeland.
My spirit hovers over ancestral soil,
a descendant of Nubian kings and queens.

A seed within me, planted in the earth
pyramids were built to contain royalty,
the relics of sovereigns prove my lineage,
yet historians deny my DNA

Reshape the history, transform the past
ignore the legacy of deceit, centuries of disease
and decades of destruction, deconstructing my
future, uprooting my goals, but I will not be deterred,
the evidence of empires runs through my veins.



Poems by Shirley Jones



BIO: Shirley Jones-Luke is from Boston, Massachusetts. Ms. Luke is a poet and a writer. She has an MFA from Emerson College. In 2016, Ms. Luke was a Watering Hole Poetry Fellow. Her work has appeared in Adelaide. BlazeVOX, Blognostics, Deluge and Mass Poetry.

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Shirley Jones-Luke on LinkedIn


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Published inPoetry

One Comment

  1. Mandy Mandy

    I like how this site publishes selections of poems so that the reader gets more of a feel for a writer’s interests and scope. As I read this group of poems, I felt that I was slowly introduced to the poet’s community stretching from immediate family to ancestors. This group of poems carves out a clear place in the world, where the writer takes time to remember the people and places that might otherwise be forgotten like the man in the first poem. I hope to read more of Shirley Jones-Luke’s work.

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